Zen Vocabulary

Avalokiteshvara (from Sanskrit) – literally: Lord looking at the weeping of the world; the bodhisattva of an unlimited compassion, one of the eight great bodhisattvas, the emanation of Buddha Amitabha.

Bodhi (from Sanskrit) – literally: awakening, the unity of Nirvana and Sansara, the subject and object based on the wisdom; the Bodhi spirit – the awakened spirit.

Bodhisattva (from Sanskrit) – he who sincerely, with determination and resolution strives to reach the awakening for the benefit of all sentient beings, he who promised not to enter the nirvana before all the sentient beings have reached the state of Buddha; a being who not only attempts to reach the awakening, but has also already attained some level of realization.

Bodhidharma (440?–528?) – the first Chinese patriarch, who brought Buddhism from India to China; the founder of Chan (Zen) Buddhism.

Dharma (from Sanskrit) – Buddha´s teachings or its later commentaries and interpretations; in other sense also the phenomena or the universal truth.

Dogen Zenji (1200 – 1253) – a Japanese Zen master, who brought the Soto Zen teachings from China to Japan.

Dojo (from Japanese) – literally: a place of transmitting the Way; a room used for meditation.

Gakudo yojin-shu (from Japanese) – one of the main Soto Zen texts from 1234 containing Master Dogen´s teachings; it includes instructions for correct practicing of Buddha´s Dharma and correct understanding of the practice; it is made up by ten chapters.

Hishiryo (from Japanese) – literally: what is immense for thinking; a state without thinking, thinking without thoughts.

Koan (from Japanese) – literally: a public statement; a citation from the sutras or an utterance of a master aimed to provoke an immediate understanding of the highest truth; the content of a koan is usually a paradox, reaching beyond the concept understanding and may be understood only by awakening deeper levels of the mind.

Mondo (from Japanese) – questions and answers; a Zen dialogue between a master and his/her or her disciples aimed to deepen the understanding of dharma.

Mushotoku (from Japanese) – practicing without the effort to reach something, without aim or profit.

Nirvana (from Sanskrit) – literally: burned out; a realization of the true existence of the spirit through the greatest wisdom; freeing oneself from the circle of life and death (Sansara) and transcending into another dimension of existence.

Prajna (from Sanskrit) – the directly experienced, intuitive wisdom, an insight into the true essence of the world; one of the perfections (paramita), which is realized by a bodhisattva on his/her way.

Samadhi (from Sanskrit) – literally: becoming firm and still; a non-dualistic state of a mind, when the spirit of the experiencing subject blends with the experienced object.

Sansara (from Sanskrit) – literally: a circle of lives; a continuation of re-births, which are undergone by every being until they reach their redemption and enter nirvana; in Mahayana Buddhism, Sansara is understood as a world of phenomena and is basically equalled with nirvana, because if a human being does not perceive the phenomenal aspect of the world, but its true existence, Sansara and nirvana are not different one from another.

Sangha (from Japanese) – originally: a Buddhist monastic order; generally: a group of people practicing the Buddha´s Way.

Satori (from Japanese) – a deep enlightenment; awakening to the truth, which is beyond duality and differentiating; an insight into one´s own true nature, and therefore into the nature of all the existence.

Sesshin (from Japanese) – literally: to focus the mind; a time of an intensive practice with the sangha, which is spent in a retreat centre or Zen monasteries.

Shiho (from Japanese) – a personal legacy of the Dharma from a master to his/her disciple.

Shikantaza (from Japanese) – literally: nothing but sitting properly; a way of meditation often described as “a method without a method”; staying in a state of a plain conscious attention here and now, which is not focused on any object and does not linger on any form.

Shila (from Sanskrit) – a morale; being morally pure in actions, words and thoughts, and bringing it to perfection; one of the six perfections.

Shobogenzo ( from Japanese) – “True Law, Eye Treasure”, one of the most important texts of Soto Zen, a collection of teachings and commentaries of the Japanese Master Dogen.

Tathagata (from Sanskrit) – literally: he who thus matured, the perfect one; a denomination of a person who reached on his/her way of the truth the highest enlightenment (Samyaksambuddha); one of the ten titles of Buddha.

Zazen (from Japanese) – literally: to sit in a completeness; a basic method of the Zen practice; remaining in a conscious attention which is not focused on any object and does not linger on any form (shikantaza).

Zen (from Japanese, from the Indian word “dhyana”) – a school of Mahayana Buddhism which started to emerge in the 6th century first in China, then in Japan, Korea and Vietnam; in the 20th century it spread to North America, Western Europe and of course to the Czech Republic; the uninterrupted transmission of the dharma from a master who realized the awakening to his/her disciple (shiho).

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