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adj.: healthy; n.: antidote, panacea, universal remedy.


Generic term applied to a collection of traditional doctrines and precepts; also means the home or collecting-place of the law or truth; the peerless law; the ultimate absolute truth. The Four Agamas are as follows: (1) Dirghagama, "law treatises on cosmogony; (2) Madhyamagama, "middle" treatises on metaphysics; (3) Samyuktagama, "miscellaneous" treatises on abstract contemplation; (4) Edottaragama, "numerical" treatises on subjects treated numerically.The sutras of Theravada are referred to at times as the Agamas.


House, dwelling, receptacle; also, used in the sense of a Bodily organ, e.g., the ear for sound, etc.


Sandalwood incense.

Alaya Consciousness

The fundamental consciousness of all sentient beings. As defined by the Yogacara School, Alaya means the "storehouse", implying that this consciousness contains and preserves all past memories and potential psychic energy within its fold; it is the reservoir of all ideas, memories and desires and is also the fundamental cause of both Samsara and Nirvana.


see charity.

Amitabha (Amida, Amita, Amitayus)

Amitabha is the most commonly used name for the Buddha of Infinite Light and Infinite Life. A transhistorical Buddha venerated by all Mahayana schools (T'ien T'ai, Esoteric, Zen ...) and, particularly, Pure Land. Presides over the Western Pure Land (Land of Ultimate Bliss), where anyone can be reborn through utterly sincere recitation of His name, particularly at the time of death.

Amitabha Buddha at the highest or noumenon level represents the True Mind, the Self-Nature common to the Buddhas and sentient beings -- all-encompassing and all-inclusive. This deeper understanding provides the rationale for the harmonization of Zen and Pure Land, two of the most popular schools of Mahayana Buddhism. See also "Buddha Reatation," "Mind," "Pure Land."

Amitabha Sutra

See "Three Pure land Sutras."


(Skt.) Opposite of asrava.


The incomparably, completely and fully awakened mind; it is the attribute of buddhas.


States of woe: the three realms of existence characterized by extreme discomfort and delusion--i.e., hell-states, animal-birth and the hungry ghosts, or pretas.


Arhatship is the highest rank attained by Sravakas. An Arhat is a Buddhist saint who has attained liberation from the cycle of Birth and Death, generally through living a monastic life in accordance with the Buddhas' teachings. This is the goal of Theravadin practice, as contrasted with Bodhisattvahood in Mahayana practice. (A Dictionary of Buddhism.) The stage is preceded by three others: 1. Stream Winner, 2. Once-Returner, 3. Non-Returner. See also "Sravakas."


One of the Four All-Embracing Virtues: performance of conduct profitable to others in order to lead them toward the truth.


Any individual ennobled by his/her own continuing effort on the path to enlightenment.

Asamkhiya (kalpa)

Term related to the Buddhist metaphysics of time. Each of the periodic manifestations and dissolutions of universes which go on eternally has four parts, called asamkhiya kalpas.


(Skt.) Pain causing impurity, defilement.


Titanic demons, enemies of the gods, with whom-especially Indra-they wage war.


In the Four Noble truths, Buddha Shakyamuni taught that attachment to self is the root cause of suffering:

From craving [attachment] springs grief, from craving springs fear; For him who is wholly free from craving, there is no grief, much less fear. (Dhammapada Sutra. In Narada Maha Thera, The Buddha and His Teachings.)

If you don't have attachments, naturally you're liberated ... In ancient times, there was an old cultivator who asked for instructions from a monk, "Great Monk, let me ask you, how can I attain liberation?" The Great monk said, "Who tied you up?" This old cultivator answered, "Nobody tied me up." The monk said, "Then why do you seek liberation?" (Hsuan Hua, tr., Flower Adornment Sutra, "Pure Conduct," chap. 11.)

For the seasoned practitioner, even the Dharma must not become an attachment. As an analogy, to clean one's shirt, it is necessary to use soap. However, if the soap is not then rinsed out, the garment will not be truly clean. Similarly, the practitioner's mind will not be fully liberated until he severs attachment to everything, including the Dharma itself.


The name is a compound of Ishwara, meaning Lord, and avalokita, looked upon or seen, and is usually translated as the Lord Who Observes (the cries of the world); the Buddhist embodiment of compassion as formulated in the Mahayana Dharma. Also called Kuan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Guan Yin is one of the triad of Amitabha Buddha, represented on his left, Usually recognizable by the small Buddha adorning Her crown. Guan Yin can transform into many different forms in order to cross over to the beings. Guan Yin is one of the most popular Bodhisattva in China.

Avatamsaka (Flower Ornament) Sutra

The basic text of the Avatamsaka School. It is one of the longest sutras in the Buddhist Canon and records the highest teaching of Buddha Shakyamuni, immediately after Enlightenment. It is traditionally believed that the Sutra was taught to the Bodhisattvas and other high spiritual beings while the Buddha was in samadhi. The Sutra has been described as the "epitome of Buddhist thought, Buddhist sentiment and Buddhist experience" and is quoted by all schools of Mahayana Buddhism, in particular, Pure Land and Zen.

Awakening of the Faith (Treatise)

A major commentary by the Patriarch Asvaghosha (lst/2nd cent.), which presents the fundamental principles of Mahayana Buddhism. Several translations exist in English.

Awakening vs. Enlightenment

A clear distinction should be made between awakening to the Way (Great Awakening) and attaining the Way (attaining Enlightenment). (Note: There are many degrees of Awakening and Enlightenment. Attaining the Enlightenment of the Arhats, Pratyeka Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, etc. is different from attaining Supreme Enlightenment, i.e., Buddhahood.)

To experience a Great Awakening is to achieve (through Zen meditation, Buddha Recitation, etc.) a complete and deep realization of what it means to be a Buddha and how to reach Buddhahood. It is to see one's Nature, comprehend the True Nature of things, the Truth. However, only after becoming a Buddha can one be said to have truly attained Supreme Enlightenment (attained the Way). A metaphor appearing in the sutras is that of a glass of water containing sediments. As long as the glass is undisturbed, the sediments remain at the bottom and the water is clear. However, as soon as the glass is shaken, the water becomes turbid. Likewise, when a practitioner experiences a Great Awakening (awakens to the Way), his afflictions (greed, anger and delusion) are temporarily suppressed but not yet eliminated. To achieve Supreme Enlightenment (i.e., to be rid of all afflictions, to discard all sediments) is the ultimate goal. Only then can he completely trust his mind and actions. Before then, he should adhere to the precepts, keep a close watch on his mind and thoughts, like a cat stalking a mouse, ready to pounce on evil thoughts as soon as they arise. To do otherwise is to court certain failure, as stories upon stories of errant monks, roshis and gurus demonstrate.


Ban T'o

Suddhidanthaka in Sanskrit. Ban Tπo was a disciple of Buddha, and he was very forgetful; for when the Buddha taught him the second sentence of a gatha of a sutra he would forget the first one, and when he was taught the third one he would forget the second one. Ultimately, however, with persistence he became an Arhat.


The intermediate existence between death and reincarnation -- a stage varying from seven to forty-nine days, after which the Karmic body from previous lives will certainly be reborn.


"Most virtuous"; honorific title apllied to a Buddha.


Sanskrit word, the Buddha of Medicine, who quells all diseases and lengthens life. His is the Buddha in the Pure Land of the Paradise of the East.


Religious mendicant; Buddhist fully ordained monk. Bhiksuni is the equivalent term designating a woman.


The true character of reality. The real as thus, always or eternally so. True Suchness.


Sanskrit for Enlightenment. Also Perfect knowledge or wisdom by which a person becomes a Buddha.

Bodhi Mind (Bodhicitta, Great Mind)

The spirit of Enlightenment, the aspiration to achieve it, the Mind set on Enlightenment. It involves two parallel aspects: i) the determination to achieve Buddhahood and ii) the aspiration to rescue all sentient beings.


Bodhi-path: The way or path to the Supreme Enlightenment of Buddhahood.


Truth-plot, holy sits, place of Enlightenment, the place where the Buddha attained Enlightenment.


The way of the practitioner of Mahayana Buddhism. One following this path aspires to the attainment of Enlightenment for the sake and benefit of all sentient beings.


Those who aspire to Supreme Enlightenment and Buddhahood for themselves and all beings. The word Bodhisattva can therefore stand for a realized being such as Avalokitesvara or Samantabhadra but also for anyone who has developed the Bodhi Mind, the aspiration to save oneself and others.

Brahma Net Sutra (Brahmajala Sutra)

This is a sutra of major significance in Mahayana Buddhism. In addition to containing the ten major precepts of Mahayana (not to kill, steal, lie, etc.) the Sutra also contains forty-eight less important injunctions. These fifty-eight major and minor precepts constitute the Bodhisattva Precepts, taken by most Mahayana monks and nuns and certain advanced lay practitioners.


Lit., Brahma or purified life, usually connoting the practice of celibacy.


Or Indra's net, characterized by holding a luminous gem in every one of its eyes. (Hindu mythology).


The highest of the four Castes in Hinduism. They served Brahma, his offering, the keepers of the Vedas, i.e. priestly.


Lit., the Awakened One; one who through aeons of spiritual development has attained Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. This epithet usually refers to Sakyamuni Buddha, who lived and taught in India some 2,600 years ago.

Buddha Nature

The following terms refer to the same thing: Self-Nature, True Nature, Original Nature, Dharma Nature, True Mark, True Mind, True Emptiness, True Thusness, Dharma Body, Original Face, Emptiness, Prajna, Nirvana, etc.

According to the Mahayana view, [buddha-nature] is the true, immutable, and eternal nature of all beings. Since all beings possess buddha-nature, it is possible for them to attain enlightenment and become a buddha, regardless of what level of existence they occupy ... The answer to the question whether buddha-nature is immanent in beings is an essential determining factor for the association of a given school with Theravada or Mahayana, the two great currents within Buddhism. In Theravada this notion is unknown; here the potential to become a buddha is not ascribed to every being. By contrast the Mahayana sees the attainment of buddhahood as the highest goal; it can be attained through the inherent buddha-nature of every being through appropriate spiritual practice. (The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.)

See also "Dharma Nature."

Buddha Recitation

See "Buddha-Remembrance".


General term for a number of practices, such as i) oral recitation of Amitabha Buddha's name and ii) visualization/contemplation of His auspicious marks and those of the Pure Land.

In reciting the buddha-name you use your own mind to be mindful of your own true self: how could this be considered seeking outside yourself?

Reciting the buddha-name proceeds from the mind. The mind remembers Buddha and does not forget. That's why it is called buddha remembrance, or reciting the buddha-name mindfully.

The most common Pure Land technique is recitation of Amitabha Buddha's name. See also "Amitabha," "Pure Land."


Lit., Teaching of Enlightenment. Originally apllied to designate the teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha; supplanted by the term "Buddhism" in its later historical development.


A statue or Image of the Buddha, used for devotional purposes.



Tumulus, a mausoleum; a place where the relics of Buddha were collected; hence, a place where the sutras or images are placed.


The nine cakravala or concentric mountain ranges or continents, separated by eight seas, of a universe.


White candana, or white sandalwood.


Lit., mind still and quiet: the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit terms Dhyana-Samadhi, meaning deep contemplative practice or yogic absorption.


See Zen.


or almsgiving, the first Paramitas. There are three kinds of charity in terms of goods, teaching (Dharma) and courage (fearlessness). Out of the three, the merits and virtues of the teaching of the Buddha Dharma is the most surpassing. Charity done for no reward here and hereafter is called pure or unsullied, while the sullied charity is done for the purpose of personal benefits. In Buddhism, the merits and virtues of pure charity is the best.


In practice there are three contemplations; seeing such abstractions: (1) by fixing the mind on the nose, navel, etc. (2) by stopping every thought as it arises; (3) by dwelling on the thought that no thing exists of itself, but from a preceding cause.


Countless Universes.

Chung Yin Shen

See Bardo.


The talismanic pearl, a symbol of bestowing fortune and capable of fulfilling every wish.


Mind or heart. the two terms being synonymous in Asian religious philosophy.

Conditioned (compounded)

Describes all the various phenomena in the world - made up of separate, discrete elements, "with outflows," with no intrinsic nature of their own. Conditioned merits and virtues lead to rebirth within samsara, whereas unconditioned merits and virtues are the causes of liberation from Birth and Death. See also "Unconditioned."



The practice of generosity or charity: one of the Paramitas as well as one of the All-Embracing Virtues, where it means, in the latter, giving others what they want just to lead them towards the truth.


The "Ten Stages" in the fifty-two sections of the development of a Bodhisattva into a Buddha.

Dedication of Merit

See "Transference of Merit."

Delusion (Ignorance)

"Delusion refers to belief in something that contradicts reality. In Buddhism, delusion is ... a lack of awareness of the true nature or Buddha nature of things, or of the true meaning of existence. "According to the Buddhist outlook, we are deluded by our senses-- among which intellect (discriminating, discursive thought) is included as a sixth sense. Consciousness, attached to the senses, leads us into error by causing us to take the world of appearances for the world of reality, whereas in fact it is only a limited and fleeting aspect of reality." (The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.)


Evil influences which hinder cultivation. These can take an infinite number of forms, including evil beings or hallucinations. Disease and death, as well as the three poisons of greed, anger and delusion are also equated to demons, as they disturb the mind.

The Nirvana Sutra lists four types of demon: i) greed, anger and delusion; ii) the five skandas, or obstructions caused by physical and mental functions; iii) death; iv) the demon of the Sixth Heaven (Realm of Desire).

The Self-Nature has been described in Mahayana sutras as a house full of gold and jewelry. To preserve the riches, i.e., to keep the mind calm, empty and still, we should shut the doors to the three thieves of greed, anger and delusion. Letting the mind wander opens the house to "demons," that is, hallucinations and harm. Thus, Zen practitioners are taught that, while in meditation, "Encountering demons, kill the demons, encountering Buddhas, kill the Buddhas." Both demons and Buddhas are mind-made, Mind-Only.

For a detailed discussion of demons, see Master Thich Thien Tam, Buddhism of Wisdom and' Faith, sect. 51.


Lit., "A shining one". An inhabitant of the heavenly realms, which is characterized by long life, joyous surroundings and blissful states of mind. In the Buddhist tradition, these states are understood to be impermanent, not eternal.

Deva King

The four Deva Kings in the first, or lowest, Devaloka on its four sides are the following: East-Dhrtarastra; South-Virodhaka; West-Viropaksa; North-Dhanada, or Vaisravana.


Goddess in general attendance on the regents of the sun and moon.


Extended mantra used in esoteric branch of Buddhism to focus and expand the mind. Its words, or sounds, should not communicate any recognizable meaning.


a) The teachings of the Buddhas (generally capitalized in English); b) duty, law, doctrine; c) things, events, phenomena, everything.

Dharma Door

The doctrines or wisdom of Buddha regarded as the doorway to Enlightenment; a method. Just as the living have 84,000 delusions, so the Buddha provides 84,000 methods (Dharma-Doors) to deal with them.

Dharma Gate

See "Dharma Door."

Dharma Nature

The intrinsic nature of all things. Used interchangeably with "emptiness," "reality." See also "Buddha Nature."


The Law-doctrine that is the reality behind being and non-being. It is interpenetrative and all-inclusive, just as the rotation of the earth holds both night and day.

Dharma-Ending Age, Degenerate Age, Last Age.

The present spiritually degenerate era, twenty-six centuries after the demise of Shakyamuni Buddha. The concept of decline, dissension and schism within the Dharma after the passing of the Buddha is a general teaching of Buddhism and a corollary to the Truth of Impermanence. See, for example, the Diamond Sutra (sect. 6 in the translation by A.F. Price and Wong Mou-lam). The time following Buddha Shakyamuni's demise is divided into three periods: i) the Perfect Age of the Dharma, lasting 500 years, when the Buddha's teaching (usually meditation) was correctly practiced and Enlightenment often attained; ii) the Dharma Semblance Age, lasting about 1,000 years, when a form of the teaching was practiced but Enlightenment seldom attained; iii) the Dharma-Ending Age, lasting some ten thousand years, when a diluted form of the teaching exists and Enlightenment is rarely attained.


The Bodhisattva who later became Amitabha Buddha, as related in the Longer Amitabha Sutra. The Bodhisattva Dharmakara is famous for forty-eight Vows, particularly the eighteenth, which promises rebirth in the Pure Land to anyone who recites His name with utmost sincerity and faith at the time of death.


See "Three bodies of the Buddha."


The practice of concentration--i.e., meditation. Also, more specifically, the four form concentrations and the four formless concentrations.

Diamond Sutra

"An independent part of the Prajnaparamita Sutra, which attained great importance, particularly in East Asia. It shows that all phenomenal appearances are not ultimate reality but rather illusions, projections of one's own mind ... The work is called Diamond Sutra because it is 'sharp like a diamond that cuts away all unnecessary conceptualizations and brings one to the further shore of enlightenment.'" (The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.)

Difficult Path of Practice (Path of the Sages, Self-Power Path)

According to Pure Land teaching, all conventional Buddhist ways of practice and cultivation (Zen, Theravada, the Vinaya School ...), which emphasize self-power and self-reliance. This is contrasted to the Easy Path of Practice, that is, the Pure Land method, which relies on both self-power and other-power (the power and assistance of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas).


Wrongdoing, evil action, misdeed, sin; external sins of the body and the mouth; a light sin.

Dusts (Worldly Dusts)

A metaphor for all the mundane things that can cloud our bright Self-Nature. These include form, sound, scent, taste, touch, dharmas (external opinions and views). These dusts correspond to the five senses and the discriminating, everyday mind (the sixth sense, in Buddhism).


Lit., two vehicles. The two vehicles or practice paths of Sravakayana and Pratyekabuddhayana.


An unusual term indicating one who has practiced the Tao with great diligence and blessing during his lifetime and who, after his death, does not want to enter just any womb, but prefers to wait for some auspicious condition, usurping such a good position from another, less highly developed spirit.


Easy Path of Practice

Refers to Pure Land practice. The Easy Path involves reliance on the power of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, in particular Buddha Amitabha ("other-power") in addition to one's own cultivation("self-power"). Usually contrasted with primary reliance on self-power (Difficult Path of Practice), taught in other Buddhist schools. Equal reliance on self-power and other-power distinguishes the Pure Land School from most other schools of Buddhism. The distinction is, however, a matter of emphasis, as all schools of Buddhism rely, to a greater or lesser extent, on both self-power and other-power. See also "Other-power".

Eight Divisions of Gods and Dragons

Devas (gods), Nagas (Dragons) and others of eight divisions (classes): deva, nagas, yakas, ganharvas, asuras, gaudas, kinaras, mahoragas.

Eight Sufferings

(1) Suffering of Birth; (2) Suffering of Old Age; (3) Suffering of Sickness; (4) Suffering of Death; (5) Suffering of being apart from the loved ones; (6) Suffering being together with the despised ones; (7) Suffering of not getting what one wants; (8) Suffering of the flouishing of the Five Skandhas.

Eight Winds

Winds of Eight Directions. Most people are usually moved by the winds of the eight directions: (1) Praise; (2) Ridicule; (3) Suffering; (4)Happiness; (5) Benefit; (6) Destruction; (7) Gain; (8) Loss.

Eightfold Path

The eight right ways leading to the cessation of sufferings. (1) Right View; (2) Right Thought; (3) Right Speech; (4) Right Action; (5) Right Livelihood; (6) Right Effort; (7) Right Remembrance; (8) Right Concentration.

Endurance (World)

See "Saha World."


See "Awakening vs. Enlightenment."

Evil Paths

The paths of hells, hungry ghosts, animality. These paths can be taken as states of mind; i.e., when someone has a vicious thought of maiming or killing another, he is effectively reborn, for that moment, in the hells.

Expedient means (Skillful means, Skill-in-means, Upaya)

Refers to strategies, methods, devices, targetted to the capacities, circumstances, likes and dislikes of each sentient being, so as to rescue him and lead him to Enlightenment. "Thus, all particular formulations of the Teaching are just provisional expedients to communicate the Truth (Dharma) in specific contexts." (J.C. Cleary.) "The Buddha's words were medicines for a given sickness at a given time," always infinitely adaptable to the conditions of the audience.


Literally, followers of non-Buddhist paths. This term is generally used by Buddhists with reference to followers of other religions.


Five Bhikshus

The first five of Buddha's converts: Ajnata-Kaundinya, Asvajit, Bhadrika, Dasabala-Kasyapa, and Mahanama-Kulika. They were the first five disciples that Shakyamuni preached when he became Buddha.

Five Corruptions

See "Five Turbidities."

Five Desires (Five Sensual Pleasures)

Desires connected with the five senses, i.e., form, sound, aroma, taste and touch.

Five Eyes

1. human eye; 2. devine eye; 3. dharma eye; 4. wisdom eye; 5. Buddha eye.

Five Fundamental Conditions of Passions and Delusions

1. Wrong views which are common to triloka; 2. Clinging or attachment in the desire realm; 3. Clinging or attachment in the form realm: 4. Clinging or attachment in the formless realm which is still mortal; 5. The state of unenlightenment which is the root-cause of all distressful delusion.

Five Natures

The natures of (1) Bodhisattvas, (2) Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, (3) ordinary good people, (4) agnostics, (5) heretics.

Five Offenses

The five rebellious acts or deadly sins: (1) parricide; (2) matricide; (3) killing an arhat; (4) shedding the blood of a Buddha; (5) destroying the harmony of the sangha, or fraternity.

Five Precepts

The precepts taken by lay Buddhists, prohibiting i) killing, ii) stealing iii) lying, iv) sexual misconduct, v) ingesting intoxicants. See also "Ten Precepts."

Five Skandhas

The five groups of elements (Dharmas) into which all existences are classified in early Buddhism. The five are: Rupa (matter), Vedana (feeling), Sanjna (ideation); Samskara (forces or drives) Vijnana (consciousness or sensation). Group, heap, aggregate; the five constituents of the personality; form, feeling, perception, impulses, consciousness; the five factors constituting the individual person.

Five Turbidities (Corruptions, Defilements, Depravities, Filths, Impurities)

They are. 1. the defilement of views, when incorrect, perverse thoughts and ideas are predominant; 2. the defilement of passions, when all kinds of transgressions are exalted; 3. the defilement of the human condition, when people are usually dissatisfied and unhappy; 4. the defilement of the life-span, when the human life-span as a whole decreases; S. the defilement of the world-age, when war and natural disasters are rife. These conditions, viewed from a Buddhist angle, however, can constitute aids to Enlightenment, as they may spur practitioners to more earnest cultivation.

Flower Store World

The entire cosmos, consisting of worlds upon worlds ad infinitum, as described in the Avatamsaka Sutra. It is the realm of Vairocana Buddha, the transcendental aspect of Buddha Shakyamuni and of all Buddhas. The Saha World, the Western Pure Land and, for that matter, all lands and realms are within the Flower Store World.

Four Aspects (of Buddha Dharma)

(1) the teaching; (2) the principle; (3) the practice; (4) the fruit/reward/result.

Four Elements

All matters are formed and are composed by four conditioned causes : (1) earth, which is characterized by solidity and durability; (2) water, which is characterized by liquid/fluid and moisture; (3) fire, which is characterized by energy and warmth; (4) wind, which is characterized by gas/air movement.

Four Fruits of the Arhat

See under Arhat entry.

Four Great Bodhisattva

They represent the four major characters of Bodhisattva:
1.Manjusri - Universal Great Wisdom Bodhisattva;
2.Samantabhadra - Universal Worthy Great Conduct Bodhisattva;
3.Ksitigarbha - Earth Store King Great Vow Bodhisattva;
4.Avalokitesvara - Guan Shr Yin Great Compassion Bodhisattva.

Four Great Vows (Four Universal Vows)

The four vows held by all Bodhisattvas. These vows are called great because of the wondrous and inconceivable compassion involved in fulfilling them. They are as follows: Sentient beings without number we vow to enlighten; Vexations without end we vow to eradicate; Limitless approaches to Dharma we vow to master; The Supreme Awakening we vow to achieve.

Four Noble Truths

1)Sufferings; 2)Cause of Sufferings; 3)Cessation of sufferings; 4)The Path leading to the cessation of sufferings.

Four Pure Lands

A classification by the Pure Land and T'ien T'ai schools of the pure realms subsumed under the Land of Amitabha Buddha, as described in the sutras. They are:

i) the Land of Common Residence of Beings and Saints (Land Where Saints and Ordinary Beings Dwell Together), where all beings, from the six lower worlds (hells, hungry ghosts ...) to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, live together (further divided into two, the Common Residence Pure Land and Common Residence Impure Land);
ii) the Land of Expediency (Land of Expedient Liberation), inhabited by Arhats and lesser Bodhisattvas;
iii) the Land of Real Reward, inhabited by the highest Bodhisattvas;
iv) the Land of Eternally Quiescent Light, in which the Buddhas dwell.

These distinctions are at the phenomenal level. At the noumenon level, there is, of course, no difference among them.

Four Reliance (to learning Buddhist Dharma)

The four standards of Right Dharma which buddhist should rely on or abide by:

(1) to abide by the Dharma, not the person;
(2) to abide by the sutras of ultimate truth, not the sutras of incomplete truth;
(3) to abide by the meaning, not the word;
(4) to abide by the wisdom, not the consciousness.

Four Unlimited Mind

The mind of Bodhisattva: 1. Kindness; 2. Compassion; 3. Delight; 4. Renunciation.

Four Virtues

The four Nirvanic virtues: (1) Eternity or permanence; (2) Joy; (3) Personality; (4) Purity. These four important virtues are affirmed by the sutra in the transcendental or nirvana-realm.

Four Ways (of learning Buddhist Dharma)

(1) Belief/faith; (2) Interpretation/discernment; (3) Practice/performance; (4) Verification/assurance. These are the cyclic process in learning a truth.

Four Wisdom

The forms of wisdom of a Buddha. (1) the Great- Mirror wisdom of Aksobhya; (2) the Universal Wisdom of Ratnaketu; (3) the Profound Observing Wisdom of Amitabha; (4) the Perfecting Wisdom of Amoghsiddhi.

Fourfold Assembly

Or the Four Varga (groups) are bhiksu, bhiksuni, upasaka and upasika, i.e. monks, nuns, male and female devotees.


Good Spiritual Advisor

Guru, virtuous friend, wise person, Bodhisattva, Buddha -- anyone (even an evil being!) who can help the practitioner progress along the path to Enlightenment. This notwithstanding, wisdom should be the primary factor in the selection of such an advisor: the advisor must have wisdom, and both advisor and practitioner must exercise wisdom in selecting one another.

Great Awakening

See "Awakening vs. Enlightenment."

Great Vehicle

See Mahayana.


Heaven of the Thirty-Three

A heaven in the Realm of Desire, with thirty-two god-kings presided over by Indra, thus totaling thirty-three, located at the summit of Mt. Sumeru (G.C.C. Chang).

Heretical views

The sutras usually refer to sixty-two such views. They are the externalist (non-Buddhist) views prevalent in Buddha Shakyamuni's time.


The Lesser Vehicle; a term applied by the Mahayana to those schools of Buddhism that practice to attain the fruits of Sravakayana and Pratyekabuddhayana and do not attempt to attain the Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi of Buddha.

Holy One

Holy or Saintly One; One who has started on the path to Nirvana.

Hua T'ou

Lit., ante word. The reality prior to the arising of thought.



One who has no interest in the path to Awakening, or one whose good roots are completely covered.



Jambu River gold; the golden sand of the Jambu river.


A park near the city of Sravasti, said to have been obtained from Prince Jeta by Anathapindika, in which monasterial buildings were erected; the favorite resort of Sakyamuni.

Jewel Net of Indra

This is a net said to hang in the palace of Indra, the king of the gods. At each interstice of the net is a reflecting jewel, which mirrors not only the adjacent jewels but the multiple images reflected in them. This famous image is meant to describe the unimpeded interpenetration of all and everything.



A king of Magadha noted for his violence; it is said that in a former incarnation he cut off the ears, nose and hands of the Buddha, who bore it all unmoved.


Periodic manifestations and dissolutions of universes which go on etemally. Great kalpas consist of four asamkhiya kalpas corresponding to childhood. maturity, old age and the death of the universe.


Volition, volitional or intentional activity. Karma is always followed by its fruit, Vipaka. Karma and Vipaka are oftentimes referred to as the law of causality, a cardinal concern in the Teaching of the Buddha.

Common karma: the difference between personal and common karma can be seen in the following example: Suppose a country goes to war to gain certain economic advantages and in the process, numerous soldiers and civilians are killed or maimed. If a particular citizen volunteers for military service and actually participates in the carnage, he commits a personal karma of killing. Other citizens, however, even if opposed to the war, may benefit directly or indirectly (e.g., through economic gain). They are thus said to share in the common karma of killing of their country.

Fixed karma: in principle, all karma is subject to change. Fixed karma, however, is karma which can only be changed in extraordinary circumstances, because it derives from an evil act committed simultaneously with mind, speech and body. An example of fixed karma would be a premeditated crime (versus a crime of passion).


The monkπs robe, or cassock.


Passion, desire, impulse, instinctive desires, including 1) craving; 2) hatred; and 3) ignorance. Defiling forces, passions, instinctive cravings, drives, defilements, desires; that which binds one in samsara.


An inconceivably short mind-moment.


Patience or forbearance, one of the Six Paramitas.


The Rsi who patiently suffered insult; i.e., Sakyamuni, in a former life, suffering mutilation in order to convert Kaliraja.


The second of the four Hindi Castes at the time of Shakyamuni, they were the royal caste, the noble landlord, the warriors and the ruling castes.



A distinctive mark, sign, indication, characteristic or designation. A Buddha is recognized by his thirty-two characteristic physiological marks.

Lankavatara Sutra

The only sutra recommended by Bodhidharma, the First Zen Patriarch in China. It is a key Zen text, along with the Diamond Sutra (recommended by the Sixth Patriarch), the Surangama Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra ... The last four sutras are referred to frequently in Pure Land commentaries.

Last Age

See "Dharma-Ending Age."

Law of Interdependent Causation

It states that all phenomena arise depending upon a number of casual factors. In other word, a phenomenon exists in condition that the other exist; it has in condition that others have; it extinguishes in condition that others extinguish; it has not in condition that others have not. For existence, there are twelve links in the chain:

Ignorance is the condition for karmic activity;
Karmic activity is the condition for consciousness;
Consciousness is the condition for the name and form;
Name and form is the condition for the six sense organs;
Six sense organs are the condition for contact;
Contact is the condition for feeling;

Feeling is the condition for emotional love/craving;
Emotional love/craving is the condition for grasping;
Grasping is the condition for existing;
Existing is the condition for birth;
Birth is the condition for old age and death;
Old age and death is the condition for ignorance; and so on.

Lesser Vehicle

The early Buddhism. A term coined by Mahayanists to distinguish this school of Buddhism [whose modern descendent is Theravada] from Mahayana. It is so called because the teaching of this school puts emphasis on one's own liberation, whereas the teaching of Mahayana stresses the attainment of Buddhahood for all sentient beings. Theravada is now prevalent in southeast Asia, while Mahayana has spread over the northern area (China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan ...) (G.C.C. Chang).

Lotus Grades

The nine possible degrees of rebirth in the Western Pure Land. The more merits and virtues the practitioner accumulates, the higher the grade.

Lotus Sect

A Buddhist sect founded by the great Master Hui Yuan about 390 A.D. at his monastery on Mount Lu in Kiangsi Province in China. The Lotus Sect believes in and honors Amitabha Buddha and declares that, through the chanting of his name and by purifying and finally ridding oneself of desire, one can be reborn in the Pure Land. There one is born of a lotus, and, depending on one's degree of purification and practice, one is born into one of the nine grades of the lotus: upper superior, middle superior, lower superior, etc.

Lotus Sutra

Or Saddharma-pundarika, Dharma Flower, or "The Lotus of the True Law." The sutra is the basis for the Lotus sect (T'ien-t'ai in Chinese). Among the sutras of the Mahayana canon.

One of the earliest and most richly descriptive of the Mahayana sutras of Indian origin. It became important for the shaping of the Buddhist tradition in East Asia, in particular because of its teaching of the One Vehicle under which are subsumed the usual Hinayana [Theravada] and Mahayana divisions. It is the main text of the Tendai [T'ien T'ai] school. (Joji Okazaki.)

This School has a historically close relationship with the Pure Land School. Thus, Master T'ai Hsu taught that the Lotus Sutra and the Amitabha Sutras were closely connected, differing only in length.

Lotus Treasury World

See "Ocean-Wide Lotus Assembly."



Also, Mahasattva; a great Bodhisattva who has reached the advanced stage of Enlightenment.


Great compassion.


Also, Kasyapa; one of Buddha's disciples. The Ch'an Sect, according to its tradition, claims him as its first patriarch.


A great or superior king.


See Maha-Bodhisattva.

Mahasthamaprapta (Shih Chih, Seishi)

One of the three sages in Pure Land Buddhism, recognizable by the water jar (jeweled pitcher) adorning Her crown. Usually represented in female form in East Asian iconography. Amitabha Buddha is frequently depicted standing between the Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta.


The mother of Shakaymuni. She was a Koliyan Princess and married to Suddhodana.


Lit., great vehicle; the dominant Buddhist tradition of East Asia. Special characteristics of Mahayana are 1. Emphasis on bodhisattva ideal, 2. The accession of the Buddha to a superhuman status, 3. The development of extensive philosophical inquiry to counter Brahmanical and other scholarly argument, 4. The development of elaborate devotional practice.


Sanskrit word, literally means friendly and benevolent. He will be the next Buddha in our world. He is now preaching in Tusita Heaven. In China, he is usually represented as the fat laughing Buddha.




The name of the seventh of the eight consciousnesses. I refers to the faculty of thought, the intellectual function of consciousness.


A jewel, gem, precious stone; especially a pearl bead or other globular ornament.


A syllable, word or verse which has been revealed to a seer in meditation, embodiment in sound of a deity; spell or incantation.


Death; the slayer and foe of what is skillful and wholesome. The Buddhist "Tempter"; the personification of all evil and passion, whose baits and snares are the sensory pleasures. Sometimes identified with the five skandhas and with what is impermanent, suffering and not-self; Devil, the Evil One, the Great Tempter; the Demon King, who attempted to destroy Buddha and Buddhism.


Characteristics, forms, physiognomy. Marks are contrasted with essence, in the same way that phenomena are contrasted with noumenon. True Mark stands for True Form, True Nature, Buddha Nature, always unchanging. The True Mark of all phenomena is like space: always existing but really empty; although empty, really existing. The True Mark of the Triple World is No-Birth/No-Death, not existent/not non-existent, not like this/not like that. True Mark is also called "Self-Nature," "Dharma Body," the "Unconditioned," "True Thusness," "Nirvana," "Dharma Realm.11 See also "Noumenon/Phenomena."

Meditation Sutra

One of the three core sutras of the Pure Land school. It teaches sixteen methods of visualizing Amitabha Buddha, the Bodhisattvas and the Pure Land. This sutra stresses the element of meditation in Pure Land. See also "Three Pure Land Sutras," "Vaidehi," "Visualization."

Merit and Virtue

These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there is a crucial difference: merits are the blessings (wealth, intelligence, etc.) of the human and celestial realms; therefore, they are temporary and subject to Birth and Death. Virtues, on the other hand, transcend Birth and Death and lead to Buddhahood. Four virtues are mentioned in Pure Land Buddhism: eternity; happiness; True Self; purity. An identical action (e.g., charity) can lead either to merit or virtue, depending on the mind of the practitioner, that is, on whether he is seeking mundane rewards (merit) or transcendence (virtue). Thus, the Pure Land cultivator should not seek merits for by doing so, he would, in effect, be choosing to remain within samsara. This would be counter to his very wish to escape Birth and Death.

Middle Vehicle

Also called Middle Doctrine School or Madhyarnika; one of the two main schools of Mahayana thought; it upholds the Void as the only really real or independent, unconditioned Reality.


Key concept in all Buddhist teaching.

Frequent term in Zen, used in two senses: (1) the mind-ground, the One Mind ... the buddha-mind, the mind of thusness ... (2) false mind, the ordinary mind dominated by conditioning, desire, aversion, ignorance, and false sense of self, the mind of delusion ... (J.C. Cleary, A Buddha from Korea.)

The ordinary, deluded mind (thought) includes feelings, impressions, conceptions, consciousness, etc. The Self-Nature True Mind is the fundamental nature, the Original Face, reality, etc. As an analogy, the Self-Nature True Mind is to mind what water is to waves -- the two cannot be dissociated. They are the same but they are also different. To approach the sutras "making discriminations and nurturing attachments is no different from the Zen allegory of a person attempting to lift a chair while seated on it. If he would only get off the chair, he could raise it easily. Similarly, the practitioner truly understands the Dharma only to the extent that he "suspends the operation of the discriminating intellect, the faculty of the internal dialogue through which people from moment to moment define and perpetuate their customary world of perception." (See this book, Introduction.)

See also the following passage:

The mind ... "creates" the world in the sense that it invests the phenomenal world with value. The remedy to this situation, according to Buddhism, is to still the mind, to stop it from making discriminations and nurturing attachments toward certain phenomena and feelings of aversion toward others. When this state of calmness of mind is achieved, the darkness of ignorance and passion will be dispelled and the mind can perceive the underlying unity of the absolute. The individual will then have achieved the state of enlightenment and will be freed from the cycle of birth and death, because such a person is now totally indifferent to them both. (Burton Watson, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi.)

Mindfulness of the Buddha

Synonymous with Buddha Recitation. See "Buddha Recitation."

Mount Sumeru

The central mountain of every universe. Also called Wonderful Height, Wonderful Brilliancy, etc.


Nagarjuna (2nd/3rd cent.)

"One of the most important philosophers of Buddhism and the founder of the Madhyamika school. Nagarjuna's major accomplishment was his systematization of the teaching presented in the Prajnaparamita Sutras. Nagarjuna's methodological approach of rejecting all opposites is the basis of the Middle Way (Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.)


Name of a deva, a strong, manly hero having divine power.


See "Three bodies of the Buddha."


The deathless; the cessation of all suffering. The very opposite of the Wheel of Birth-and-Death; it is what those in the Buddhist tradition aspire to experience. The Absolute, which transcends designation and mundane characterization.

Nirvana Sutra

The last of the sutras in the Mahayana canon. It emphasizes the importance of Buddha-nature, which is the same as Self-Nature.

Non-Birth (No-Birth)

"A term used to describe the nature of Nirvana. In Mahayana Buddhism generally, No-Birth signifies the 'extinction' of the discursive thinking by which we conceive of things as arising and perishing, forming attachments to them." (Ryukoku University.) See also "Tolerance of Non-Birth."


Ocean-Wide Lotus Assembly

The Lotus Assembly represents the gathering of Buddha Amitabha, the Bodhisattvas, the sages and saints and all other superior beings in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. This Assembly is "Ocean-Wide" as the participants are infinite in number -- spreading as far and wide as the ocean. The term Ocean-Wide Assembly is generally associated with the Avatamsaka Sutra, a text particularly prized by the Pure Land and Zen schools alike.


A sage who has only one rebirth left before reaching Arhatship and escaping birth and death.

One-Life Bodhisattva

A Bodhisattva who is one lifetime away from Buddhahood. The best known example is the Bodhisattva Maitreya.

One-Vehicle Dharma

The one Yana, the vehicle of Oneness. The one Buddhayana, the One Vehicle, i.e., Mahayana, which contains the final or complete Law of the Buddha and not merely a part, or preliminary stage, as in Hinayana.


The issue of other-power (Buddhas' power) is often misunderstood and glossed over by many Buddhists. However, it must be pointed out that, in Buddhism, other-power is absolutely necessary if a Bodhisattva is to attain Ultimate Enlightenment. The Lankavatara Sutra (the only sutra recommended by Bodhidharma) and the Avatamsaka Sutra (described by D.T. Suzuki as the epitome of Buddhist thought) are emphatically clear on this point:

As long as [conversion] is an experience and not mere understanding, it is evident that self-discipline plays an important role in the Buddhist life . but .. we must not forget the fact that the Lanka [Lankavatara Sutra] also emphasizes the necessity of the Buddha's power being added to the Bodhisattvas', in their upward course of spiritual development and in the accomplishment of their great task of world salvation. (Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, tr., The Lankavatara Sutra, p. xviii.)

The Avatamsaka Sutra states:

Having purified wisdom and means in the seventh stage ... The great sages attain acceptance of non-origination ... On the basis of their previous resolution, the buddhas further exhort them ...: "Though you have extinguished the burning of the fire of affliction, Having seen the world still afflicted, remember your past vows; Having thought of the welfare of the world, work in quest Of the cause of knowledge, for the liberation of the world." (T. Cleary, tr., The Flower Ornament Sutra, Vol II, p. 86)

See also "Easy Path of Practice."



Lit., defeat or the conditions leading to the defeat of the Bodhicitta. Also. the conditions leading to the defeat of the Bhiksu's life.


Refers to the six practices, the perfection of which ferries one beyond the sea of suffering and mortality to Nirvana. The six Paramitas are the following: (1) Dana, charity or giving, including the bestowing of truth on others; (2) Sila, keeping the discipline; (3) Ksanti, patience under suffering and insult; (4) Virya, zeal and progress; (5) Dhyana, meditation or contemplation; (6) Prajna, wisdom, the power to discern reality or truth. It is the perfection of the last one -- Prajna -- that ferries sentient beings across the ocean of Samsara (the sea of incarnate life) to the shores of Nirvana.


The Buddha's final Nirvana, entered by him at the time of death.

Polar Mountain

In Buddhist cosmology, the universe is composed of worlds upon worlds7 ad infinitum. (Our earth is only a small part of one of these worlds). The Polar Mountain is the central mountain of each world.


The North Star, polestar; star of the second magnitude, standing alone and forming the end of the tail of the constellation Ursa Minor; it marks very nearly the position of the north celestial pole.


True or transcendental wisdom. Last of the paramitas. One of the highest attainments of Buddhist practice.

Pratyeka Buddha

A solitary Buddha; one who has achieved Awakening through insight into the dependent origination of mind and body. Pratyekabuddhas lead only solitary lives, and they do not teach the Dharma to others nor do they have any desire to do so.


Hungry ghosts. who are tormented by continual and unsatisfied cravings. The preta-realm is one of the three states of woe (apaya-bhumi) and one of the six realms of existence.


Lit., loving or affectionate speech. This beautiful and affectionate speech is one of the Four All-Embracing Virtues and is used to lead sentient beings toward the truth.

Pure Land

Generic term for the realms of the Buddhas. In this text it denotes the Land of Ultimate Bliss or Western Land of Amitabha Buddha. It is not a realm of enjoyment, but rather an ideal place of cultivation, beyond the Triple Realm and samsara, where those who are reborn are no longer subject to retrogression. This is the key distinction between the Western Pure Land and such realms as the Tusita Heaven. There are two conceptions of the Pure Land: as different and apart from the Saha World and as one with and the same as the Saha World. When the mind is pure and undefiled, any land or environment becomes a pure land (Vimalakirti, Avatamsaka Sutras ...). See also "Triple Realm."

Pure Land School

When Mahayana Buddhism spread to China, Pure Land ideas found fertile ground for development. In the fourth century, the movement crystallized with the formation of the Lotus Society, founded by Master Hui Yuan (334-416), the first Pure Land Patriarch. The school was formalized under the Patriarchs T'an Luan (Donran) and Shan Tao (Zendo). Master Shan Tao's teachings, in particular, greatly influenced the development of Japanese Pure Land, associated with Honen Shonin (Jodo school) and his disciple, Shinran Shonin (Jodo Shinshu school) in the 12th and 13th centuries. Jodo Shinshu, or Shin Buddhism, places overwhelming emphasis on the element of faith.

[Pure Land comprises the schools] of East Asia which emphasize aspects of Mahayana Buddhism stressing faith in Amida, meditation on and recitation of his name, and the religious goal of being reborn in his "Pure Land" or "Western Paradise." (Keith Crim.)

Note: An early form of Buddha Recitation can be found in the Nikayas of the Pali Canon:

In the Nikayas, the Buddha ... advised his disciples to think of him and his virtues as if they saw his body before their eyes, whereby they would be enabled to accumulate merit and attain Nirvana or be saved from transmigrating in the evil paths ... (D.T. Suzuki, The Eastern Buddhist, Vol.3, No.4, p.317.)

Pure Land Sutras

See "Three Pure Land Sutras."



See entry under Lotus Sutra.


A wise and virtuous person, an accomplished one who is second in rank to a saint.

Saha World

World of Endurance. Refers to this world of ours, filled with suffering and afflictions, yet gladly endured by its inhabitants.


God of the sky who fights the demons with his vajra, or thunderbolt.


Or Salavana, the grove of sal(teak) trees near Kusinagara, the place of the Buddha's death.


Deep concentration: the state of one-pointedness of mind characterized by peace and imperturbability. Samadhi is also one of the Paramitas and is indispensable on the path to Bodhi.


Cooperation with and adaptation to others for the sake of leading them towards the truth. Samanarthata is one of the Four All-Embracing Virtues.


Also called Universal Worthy or, in Japanese, Fugen. A major Bodhisattva, who personifies the transcendental practices and vows of the Buddhas (as compared to the Bodhisattva Manjusri, who represents transcendental wisdom). Usually depicted seated on an elephant with six tusks (six paramitas). Best known for his "Ten Great Vows."


Quiet, tranquillity, calmness of mind, absence of mind.


See "Three bodies of the Buddha."


Cycle of rebirths; realms of Birth and Death.

Samyak Sambodhi

Correct universal intelligence; correct, equal or universal Enlightenment.


Lit., harmonious community. In the Buddhadharma, Sangha means the order of Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, Sramaneras and Sramanerikas. Another meaning is the Arya Sangha, made up of those individuals, lay or monastic, who have attained one of the four stages of sanctity. Also, the Bodhisattva Sangha.

Sangharama Body

A monastery with its garden or grove, a universal body.


Learned language of India. Canonical texts of Mahayana Buddhism in its Indian stage were written in Sanskrit.


Major disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha, foremost in wisdom among His Arhat disciples.


Commentary; the commentaries constitute one of the three parts of the Buddhist canonical scrptures.


One's own Original Nature, one's own Buddha Nature.


See "Difficult Path of Practice."

Seven Treasures

Gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, agate, red pearl and carnelian. They represent the seven powers of faith, perseverance, sense of shame, avoidance of wrongdoing, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.


Blessed, endowed with supernatural faculties. This same term refers to the Sankrit alphabet also and is, likewise, transliterated as Hsi-ta in Chinese.


The four siddhanta. The Buddha taught by (1) mundane of ordinary modes of expression; (2)individual treatment, adapting his teaching to the capacity of his hearers; (3) diagnostic treatment of their moral diseases; and (4) the perfect and highest truth.


A lay-disciple who maintains the eight precepts, either temporarily or as preparation for leaving home.


Moral precepts. These number 5,8,10,250 or 350. Also, one of the Paramitas.

Six Directions

North, South, East, West, above and below, i.e., all directions. In the Avatamsaka Sutra, they are expanded to include points of the compass in between and are referred to as the Ten Directions.

Six Dusts

See "Dusts."

Six Organs

The six indriyas, or sense organs: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind.

Six Paramitas

See "Paramita"

Six Planes of Existence (Six Paths)

The paths within the realm of Birth and Death. Includes the three Evil Paths (hells, hungry ghosts, animality) and the paths of humans, asuras and celestials. These paths can be understood as states of mind. See also "Evil Paths."

Sixth Patriarch

Hui Neng (638-713), the Sixth Patriarch of the Chinese Zen school and author of the Platform Sutra.


As taught by the Buddha, the skandhas are the components of the human so-called entity that is constantly changing. They are: I. Name/form; 2. Feeling; 3. Conception; 4. Impulse; 5. Consciousness.

Skillful Means

See "Expedient Means."

Small Vehicle

See entry under Hinayana.

Spiritual power

Also called miraculous power. Includes, inter alia, the ability to see all forms (deva eye), to hear all sounds (deva ear), to know the thoughts of others, to be anywhere and do anything at will.


Lit., laborer; applied to those who wholeheartedly practice toward enlightenment; root word of the designation for novice monk.


A novice monk holding the 10 precepts.


A novice nun holding the 10 precepts.


"Lit., 'voice-hearers': those who follow [Theravada] and eventually become arhats as a result of listening to the buddhas and following their teachings" (A. Buzo and T. Prince.) See also "Arhat."


Pure Rice King, the father of Shakyamuni, ruled over the Sakyans at Kapilavatthu on the Nepalese border.

Sudhana (Good Wealth)

The main protagonist in the next-to-last and longest chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Seeking Enlightenment, he visited and studied with fifty-three spiritual advisors and became the equal of the Buddhas in one lifetime. Both his first advisor and his last advisor (Samantabhadra) taught him the Pure Land path.


The lowest of the four Hindi Castes at the time of Shakyamuni. They were peasants, slaves and serfs.


Lit., exalted, excellent; the mythical "world mountain" that rises through the center of a Buddhist universe.

Surangama Sutra

Also called Heroic Gate Sutra.

The "Sutra of the Heroic One" exercised a great influence on the development of Mahayana Buddhism in China [and neighboring countries]. It emphasizes the power of samadhi, through which enlightenment can be attained, and explains the various methods of emptiness meditation through the practice of which everyone ... can realize ... enlightenment ä (Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.)


An aphorism; a thread of suggestive words or phrases summarizing religious and philosophical instruction. In buddhism, it refers to a discourse by the Buddha or one of his major disciples. The Sutra collection is one of the three divisions of the Buddhist scriptures.


T'ien T'ai (Tendai) School

A major school that takes the Lotus Sutra as its principal text. Historically, it has had a close relationship with Pure Land. See also "Lotus Sutra."


Path or Way. The Sanskrit equivalent to this Chinese term is marga.


Usually translated as "Thus Come One." He who came as did all Buddhas, who took the absolute way of cause and effect, and attained to perfect wisdom; one of the highest titles of a Buddha (Charles Luk).

Ten Directions

North, South. East, West; N-F, N-W, S-F, S-W, Zenith and Nadir.

Ten Evil Acts (Ten Evil Deeds, Ten Sins)

1. Killing; 2.stealing; 3. sexual misconduct; 4. lying; 5. slander; 6. coarse language; 7. empty chatter; 8. covetousness; 9. angry speech; 10. wrong views. See also "Ten Precepts."

Ten Great Vows

The famous vows of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra in the Avatamsaka Sutra. These vows represent the quintessence of this Sutra and are the basis of all Mahayana practice. Studying the vows and putting them into practice is tantamount to studying the Avatamsaka Sutra and practicing its teachings. See also "Samantabhadra."

Ten Precepts

Include an expanded version of the Five Precepts of body and mouth (not to kill, steal, engage in illicit sex, lie, or take intoxicants) with the addition of the virtues of the mind (elimination of greed, anger and delusion). See also "Five Precepts," "Ten Evil Acts."

Ten Stages of a Bodhisattva's Progress

They are the following: (1) Joy at having overcome former difficulties and at now entering the path to Buddhahood; (2) Freedom from all possible defilement, the stage of purity; (3) The stage of further enlightenment; (4) Glowing wisdom; (5) Mastery of the utmost or final difficulties; (6) The open way of wisdom that is beyond purity and impurity; (7) Proceeding afar, above the concept of "self" in order to save others; (8) Attainment of calm imperturbability; (9) Achievement of the finest discriminatory wisdom; knowing, expediently, where and how to save; possessing the ten powers; (10) Attainment of the fertilizing powers of the Law Cloud.

Ten Virtues

The virtuous modes of behavior, which are the positive counterparts to the Five Precepts.

The Grades of Bodhisattva Faith

1) The stage of Bodhisattva faith; 2) The stage of rememberance or unforgetfulness; 3) The stage of zealous progress; 4) The stage of wisdom; 5) The stage of Dhyana; 6) The stage of non-retrogression; 7) The stage of protection of the Dharma; 8)The stage of reflective powers; 9) The stage of discipline (sila); 10) The stage of the mind of high resolve.

The Stages Before Attainment

1) The purposive stage; 2) The stage of control of the mind-ground; 3) the stage of Bodhisattva practice; 4) The stage of noble birth; 5) The stage of all-in-readiness for Enlightenment; 6) The stage of the whole mind becoming Buddha-like; 7) The stage of non-retrogression; 8) The stage of Bodhi in its infancy; 9) The stage of the heir to the King of the Law; 10) The stage of investiture.


Lit., the School of the Elders; one of the two main forms of Buddhism known in the world today; practiced chiefly in south-east Asia; has the Pali Canon for textual foundation; this tradition advocates the Arahantship.

Third Lifetime

In the first lifetime, the practitioner engages in mundane good deeds which bring ephemeral worldly blessings (wealth, power, authority, etc.) in the second lifetime. Since power tends to corrupt, he is likely to create evil karma, resulting in retribution in the third lifetime. Thus, good deeds in the first lifetime are potential "enemies" of the third lifetime. To ensure that mundane good deeds do not become "enemies the practitioner should dedicate all merits to a transcendental goal, i.e., to become Bodhisattvas or Buddhas or, in Pure Land teaching, to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land -- a Buddha land beyond Birth and Death.

In a mundane context, these three lifetimes can be conceived of as three generations. Thus, the patriarch of a prominent family, through work and luck, amasses great power, fortune and influence (first lifetime). His children are then able to enjoy a leisurely, and, too often, dissipated life (second lifetime). By the generation of the grandchildren, the family's fortune and good reputation have all but disappeared (third lifetime).

Thirty-seven Limbs of Enlightenment

These are: a. the four mindfulnesses; b. the four right efforts; c. the four bases of miraculous powers; d. the five roots; e. the five powers; f. the seven factors of enlightenment; and g. the eightfold noble path (G.C.C. Chang).

Thirty-two Laksanas

The physical marks of a Cakravarti (Wheel-King), especially of the Buddha.

Three bodies of the Buddha (Skt. trikaya)

1. Dharmakaya: The Dharma-body, or the "body of reality", which is formless, unchanging, transcendental, and inconceivable. Synonymous with suchness, or emptiness. 2. Sambhogakaya: the "body of enjoyment", the celestial body of the Buddha. Personification of eternal perfection in its ultimate sense. It "resides" in the Pure Land and never manifests itself in the mundane world, but only in the celestial spheres, accompanied by enlightened Bodhisattvas. 3. Nirmanakaya: the "incarnated body" of the Buddha. In order to benefit certain sentient beings, a Buddha incarnates himself into an appropriate visible body, such as that of Sakyamuni Buddha.

The incarnated body of the Buddha should not be confused with a magically produced Buddha. The former is a real, tangible human body which has a definite life span, The latter is an illusory Buddha-form which is produced with miraculous powers and can be withdrawn with miraculous powers (G.C.C. Chang).

Three Evil Paths

See "Evil Paths."

Three Jewels (Three Precious Ones, Three Treasures)

In Sanskrit, Rathatraya. Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; sometimes referred to as the Teacher, the Teaching and the Taught.

Three Karmas

The three conditions, inheritances or karmas, of which there are several groups, including the karmas of deeds, words and thoughts.

Three Poisons

Craving, aversion and delusion; also, these are termed the three root-stains or the three roots of unskillfulness.

Three Pure Land Sutras

Pure Land Buddhism is based on three basic sutras: a) Amitabha Sutra (or Shorter Amitabha Sutra, or Smaller Sukhavati-Vyuha, or the Sutra of Amida); b) Longer Amitabha Sutra (or Longer Sukhavati-Vyuha, or the Teaching of Infinite Life); c) Meditation Sutra (or the Meditation on the Buddha of Infinite Life, or the Amitayus Dhyana Sutra). Sometimes the last chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra ("The Practices and Vows of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra") is considered the fourth basic sutra of the Pure Land tradition. Note: in Pure Land, the Longer Amitabha Sutra is considered a shorter form of the Lotus Sutra.

Three Realms (Triple Realm, Three Worlds)

The realms of desire (our world), form (realms of the lesser deities) and formlessness (realms of the higher deities). The Western Pure Land is outside the Triple Realm, beyond samsara and retrogression. See also "Pure Land."

Three Refuges

Taking refuge and possessing confidence in the Buddha's Awakening, in his Teaching and in the Sangha of enlightened disciples.

Three Vehicles

The yanas of Sravakas, Pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Tolerance of Non-Birth

"Tolerance" (insight) that comes from the knowledge that all phenomena are unborn. Sometimes translated as "insight into the non-origination of all existence/non-origination of the dharmas." A Mahayana Buddhist term for the insight into emptiness, the non-origination or birthlessness of things or beings realized by Bodhisattvas who have attained the eighth Stage [Ground] of the path to Buddhahood. When a Bodhisattva realizes this insight he has attained the stage of non-retrogression. (Ryukoku University.) The Pure Land School teaches that anyone reborn in the Pure Land attains the Tolerance of Non-Birth and reaches the stage of non-retrogression, never to fall back into samsara. See also "Non-Birth."

Transference of Merit

The concept of merit transference, or sharing one's own merits and virtues with others, is reflected in the following passage: Some of us may ask whether the effect of [evil] karma can be... [changed] by repeating the name of Kuan-Yin. This question is tied up with that of rebirth in Sukhavati [the Pure Land] and it may be answered by saying that invocation of Kuan-Yin's name forms another cause which will right away offset the previous karma. We know, for example) that if there is a dark, heavy cloud above, the chances are that it will rain. But we al50 know that if a strong wind should blow, the cloud will be carried away somewhere else and we will not feel the rain. Similarly, the addition of one big factor can alter the whole course of karma. It is only by accepting the idea of life as one whole that both Theravadins and Mahayanists can advocate the practice of transference of merit to others. With the case of Kuan-Yin then, by calling on Her name we identify ourselves with Her and as a result of this identification, Her merits flow over to us. These merits which are now ours then counterbalance our bad karma and save us from calamity. The law of cause and effect still stands good. All that has happened is that a powerful and immensely good karma has overshadowed the weaker one. (Lecture on Kuan-Yin by Tech Eng Soon - Penang Buddhist Association, c. 1960. Pamphlet.)

Triloka or Trailoka

See "Threee Realms."


Lit., three baskets: The earliest Buddhist canonical text consisting of three sections: 1. Buddha's discourses (sutras), 2 Rules of Discipline (Vinaya), 3. Analytical and explanatory texts or commentaries (sastras); usually referred to as the Pali canon.

Triple Jewel

See "Three Treasures."

Twelve Nidanas

The twelve links in the chain of existence or causation; they are as follows: 1) Avidya, ignorance or unenlightenment; 2) Samskara, action, activity, conception, "dispositions"; 3) Vijnana, consciousness; 4) Namarupa, name and form; 5) Sadayatana, the six sense organs, i.e., eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind; 6) Sparsa, contact, touch; 7) Vedana, sensation, feeling; 8) Trsna, thirst, desire, existing; 9) Upadana, laying hold of, grasping; 10) Bhava, being, existing; 11) Jati, birth; 12) Jaramarana, old age and death.

Two Truths

1) Relative or conventional, everyday truth of the mundane world subject to delusion and dichotomies and 2) the Ultimate Truth, transcending dichotomies, as taught by the Buddhas. According to Buddhism, there are two kinds of Truth, the Absolute and the Relative. The Absolute Truth (of the Void) manifests "illumination but is always still," and this is absolutely inexplicable. On the other hand, the Relative Truth (of the Unreal) manifests "stillness but is always illuminating," which means that it is immanent in everything. (Hsu Heng Chi/P.H. Wei). Pure Land thinkers such as the Patriarch Tao Ch'o accepted "the legitimacy of Conventional Truth as an expression of Ultimate Truth and as a vehicle to reach Ultimate Truth. Even though all form is nonform, it is acceptable and necessary to use form within the limits of causality, because its use is an expedient means of saving others out of one's compassion for them and because, even for the unenlightened, the use of form can lead to the revelation of form as nonform" (David Chappell). Thus to reach Buddhahood, which is formless, the cultivator can practice the Pure Land method based on form.


A term originally used to mean "sect", but later appropriated by the intuitional school known as Ch'an (Japanese, Zen) for use in special contexts.


Unconditioned (Transcendental)

Anything "without outflows," i.e., free of the three marks of greed, anger and delusion. See also "Conditioned."


Buddhist lay disciple (man/woman), who formally received five precepts or rules of conduct.



The Queen of King Bimbisara of Magadha, India. It was in response to her entreaties that Buddha Shakyamuni preached the Meditation Sutra, which teaches a series of sixteen visualizations (of Amitabha Buddha, the Pure Land ...) leading to rebirth. in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.


A precious substance, perhaps lapis lazuli or beryl.


The main Buddha in the Avatamsaka Sutra. Represents the Dharma Body of Buddha Shakyaniuni and all Buddhas. His Pure Land is the Flower Store World, i.e., the entire cosmos.


One of the four maharaja-deva graudians of the first or lowest devaloka on its four sides. Vaisravana guards the north.


The third of the four Hindi Castes at the time of Shakyamuni. They were merchant, entrepreneurs, traders, farmers, manufacturers, etc., but not well-educated.


God of the sea and of the waters; guardian of the western quarter of the compass.


True or sacred knowledge or lore; name of celebrated works which constitute the basis of the first period of the Hindu religion.

Vimalakirti Sutra

Also called Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. A key Mahayana sutra particularly popular with Zen and to a lesser extent Pure Land followers. The main protagonist is a layman named Vimalakirti who is the equal of many Bodhisattvas in wisdom, eloquence, etc. He explained the teaching of Emptiness in terms of non-duality ... "The true nature of things is beyond the limiting concepts imposed by words." Thus, when asked by Manjusri to define the non-dual Truth, Vimalakirti simply remained silent.


Disciplined conduct, referring specifically to the monastic rules for the disciples who have left home; also, one of the three divisions of the Buddhist scriptures.


Discernment; also, insight, correct perception or view.


See "Merit and Virtue."

Virya: Energy

The energy necessary to maintain and progress in spiritual development. Also, one of the Paramitas.


See Meditation Sutra for explanation. The visualizations [in the Meditation Sutra] are distinguished into sixteen kinds [shifting from earthly scenes to Pure Land scenes at the third Visualization]: (1) visualization of the sun, (2) visualization of water, (3) visualization of the ground [in the Pure Land], (4) visualization of the trees, (5) visualization of the lake[s], (6) unified visualization of the [50 billion] storied-pavilions, trees, lakes, and so forth, (7) visualization of the [lotus throne of Amitabha Buddha], (8) visualization of the images of the Buddha [Amitabha] and Bodhisattvas [Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta], (9) visualization of the [Reward body of Amitabha Buddha, i.e., the form in which He appears in the Pure Land], (10) visualization of Avalokitesvara, (11) visualization of Mahasthamaprapta, (12) visualization of one's own rebirth, (13) [see below], (14) visualization of the rebirth of the highest grades, (15) visualization of the rebirth of the middle grades and (16) visualization of the rebirth of the lowest grades. (K.K. Tanaka, The Dawn of Chinese Pure Land Doctrine.) The 13th Visualization has been summarized as follows: If one cannot visualize the [Reward body of Amitabha Buddha], focus on the small body, which is sixteen cubits high (the traditional height of Shakyamuni while he dwelt on earth); contemplate an intermingling of the [Reward] and small bodies. (1oji Okazaki, p.52.) Visualizations 14-16 refer to the nine lotus grades (of rebirth), divided into three sets of three grades each.


Way (Path, Tao)

The path leading to Supreme Enlightenment, to Buddhahood.


The life of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, which is sustained by wisdom, just as the life of an ordinary being is sustained by food.



In the Vedas, the god of the dead.


Sankrit term, commonly translated as vehicle; means spiritual vehicle, path or career.


The wife of Siddhartha Goutama. Later became a nun.

Yogacara School

Another name for the Mind-Only school, founded in the fourth century by the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu.



A major school of Mahayana Buddhism, with several branches. One of its most popular techniques is meditation on koans, which leads to the generation of the Great Doubt. According to this method: The master gives the student a koan to think about, resolve, and then report back on to the master. Concentration intensifies as the student first tries to solve the koan intellectually. This initial effort proves impossible, however, for a koan cannot be solved rationally. Indeed, it is a kind of spoof on the human intellect. Concentration and irrationality -- these two elements constitute the characteristic psychic situation that engulfs the student wrestling with a koan. As this persistent effort to concentrate intellectually becomes unbearable, anxiety sets in. The entirety of one's consciousness and psychic life is now filled with one thought. The exertion of the search is like wrestling with a deadly enemy or trying to make one's way through a ring of flames. Such assaults on the fortress of human reason inevitably give rise to a distrust of all rational perception. This gnawing doubt [Great Doubt], combined with a futile search for a way out, creates a state of extreme and intense yearning for deliverance. The state may persist for days, weeks or even years; eventually the tension has to break. (Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism, Vol. I, p.253.) An interesting koan is the koan of Buddha Recitation. Unlike other koans, it works in two ways. First of all, if a cultivator succeeds in his meditation through this koan, he can achieve awakening as with other koans. However, if he does not succeed, and experience shows that many cultivators do not, then the meditation on the Buddha's narne helps him to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land. This is so provided he believes (as most practitioners in Asia do) in Amitabha and the expedient Pure Land. Thus, the Buddha Recitation koan provides a safety net, and demonstrates the underlying unity of Zen and Pure Land.