Bodai, Bodhi, Bodhisattva, Bosatsu, Buddha, Butsu, Enlightenment, Esoteric Buddhism, Exoteric Buddhism, Historical Buddha, Hotoke, Karma, Karmic, Nehan, Nirvana, Nyorai, Samsara, Satori, Seishi, Tathagata
Gongen, Honji, Honjibutsu, Honji Suijaku, Kami, Mitama, Myoujin, Ryoubu Shinto, Shin, Shinbutsu Shugo, Shugendo, Shugenja, Suijaku (Suijyaku), Tamashii, Tenjin, Yamabushi
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The Historical Buddha lived in India around 560 to 480 BC. For comparative purposes, his contemporaries in China were Confucius and Lao-tzu (founder of Taoism). Slightly later, around 400 BC, comes Plato in the West.
- Buddha 佛 or 仏. See Main Buddha Page. Buddha is the past participle of Sanskrit buddh (to awaken, to know), and is translated as “one who has awakened to the truth.” Buddha is not a personal name. It is an honorific term, like messiah or christ (anointed one).
- Tathagata 如来. See entry Nyorai below or see Tathagata Page. Another Sanskrit term for Buddha, translated either “thus come” or “thus gone.” One of the ten epithets (ten honorable titles) of the Buddha. The nuances are (1) Tathagata is a spiritual principle, not a historical person; (2) implies that path followed by the Historical Buddha to attain enlightenment is open to all sentient beings; (3) means “coming from the origin” or “returning to the origin.”
- Nyorai 如来. See Main Nyorai Page. This Sino-Japanese compound word comes from the Sanskrit Tathagata. Tatha means "thusness” (the original condition), while Gata means either going or coming. The Chinese stressed the sense of "coming," as did the Japanese. In Japanese, the term Tatha is also translated as Shinnyo 真如, meaning intrinsic thusness. This latter term is used to represent the world of enlightenment, the world of Absolute Truth. The term Tathagata is thus translated directly as "one thus gone" or "one thus come." But in Japan, the term Nyorai may be more fully translated as "one who has come from the world of absolute truth to save all beings." For all practical purposes, the words Buddha, Tathagata, and Nyorai are synonymous in modern English usage. Each is an honorific title given to those who have attained enlightenment. For a review of Japan’s most revered Nyorai, please click here.
- Butsu 仏 or 佛 (Main Butsu Page)
The Chinese translated the Sanskrit Buddha into Butsu 仏 and Da 陀 (i.e.仏陀). When the two-character Chinese term was transmitted to Japan, the first character only was used. It can be read as either Butsu 仏 or Hotoke 仏, but it is written with the same character. Both readings mean Buddha.
- Hotoke 仏 (Main Hotoke Page)
Pronounced as either Butsu or Hotoke in Japan, but written with the same character. Both readings mean Buddha.
- Ten Epithets, Ten Honorable Titles, of the Buddha (Jūgō 十號)
Sanskrit term, followed by English meaning, followed by Japanese reading and ideogram.
- Tathāgata, Tathagata; Thus-Come, Thus Gone (Jp. = Nyorai 如来)
- Arhat; Worthy of Respect (Jp. = Ōgu = 應供)
- Samyak Sambuddha; Correctly Enlightened (Jp. = Shōhenchi 正編知)
- Vidyā Carana Sampanna; Perfected in Wisdom & Action (Jp. = Myōgyōsoku 明行足)
- Sugata; Well-Gone; (Jp. = Zenzei 善逝)
- Lokavid; Knower of the Secular World (Jp. = Sekenge 世間解)
- Anuttarā; Unsurpassed (Jp. = Mujōji 無上士)
- Purusadamya Sāratha; The Tamer (Jp. = Jōgojobu 調御大夫)
- Śāstādevamanusyānām; Teacher of Gods and Men (Jp. = Tenninshi 天人師)
- Bhagavān; World Honored One (Jp. = Butsu-seson 佛世尊)
Above spellings for Ten Epithets courtesy of:
Gakkaionline.net/study/GS-10Titles.html, Sgi-usa.org/, and Digital Dictionary of Buddhism
OTHER IMPORTANT BUDDHIST TERMS
- BODHISATTVA (Sanskrit), BOSATSU 菩薩 (Japanese)
One who seeks enlightenment. The penultimate state of enlightenment, just prior to Buddhahood. The original Sanskrit bodhisattva (bodhi = enlightenment, sattva = essence) meant "one who seeks enlightenment," but in modern Buddhism the term has taken on multiple meanings.
THREE DEFINITIONS OF BODHISATTVA
Chinese transliteration of Sanskrit Bodhisattva
The Chinese transliterated bodhisattva into four characters, but later abbreviated it, using only the first and third characters. The Japanese adopted the abbreviated spelling, which forms the Japanese word Bosatsu.
The term “bodhisattva” was originally used to refer to the Historical Buddha before he attained enlightenment. With the introduction of Mahayana Buddhism, however, the term came to mean one who achieves enlightenment but delays Buddhahood, remaining instead on Earth to help all sentient beings attain salvation. This latter concept was vigorously promoted by Mahayana adherents to differentiate it from the Theravada concept of Arhat. The Arhat is also an enlightened being, but according to Mahayana believers, the Theravadin Arhat possesses an inferior, selfishly attained enlightenment, one based on "benefitting self." In contrast, the Bodhisattva of Mahayana traditions is motivated entirely by compassion 慈悲, by the desire to "benefit others" -- indeed, the highest aspiration of the Mahayana Bodhisattva is to save all sentient beings. See Arhat versus Bodhisattva page for more details.
Bodhisattva has a third meaning as well. It refers to anyone who sincerely seeks to save others while pursuing the path of enlightenment. Essentially, anyone who decides to pursue the Buddhist path can be called a bodhissatva, and many Mahayanans believe there are countless bodhisattvas on earth at any moment. Whereas Theravada Buddhism stresses the monastic life -- the monk's life -- as the only path to salvation (Arhatship), the Mahayana school says anyone, including laity, can attain Buddhahood by practicing the Bodhisattva values. A related Japanese term is Ritakyusai 利他救済, meaning "emancipation by benefitting others." Click here for more on the differences between the Theravada and Mahayana schools.
BODHI (Sanskrit), BODAI 菩提 (Jp.), SATORI 悟り (Jp.)
Generally speaking, the terms enlightenment, nirvana, and emancipation are synonymous in modern English usage. To attain enlightenment (satori) is to achieve nirvana. The result is emancipation from the cycle of suffering and delusion (see “Samsara” below).
- Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. Esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyō 密教) is Japan’s version of Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism. Together with Hinayana and Mahayana, the Vajrayana school represents one of the three basic forms of Buddhism in Asia today. It is especially strong in Japan and Tibet, and intricately connected with the mandala artform. In Japan, the main esoteric sects are the Shingon and Tendai sects. All other forms of Buddhism are known as Exoteric Buddhism (Kenkyō 顕教), which represent the orthodox traditions of the old schools, including Japan’s Zen sects and Pure Land Amida sects. The term Kenmitsu Bukkyō 顕密仏教 refers to both exoteric and esoteric traditions. For more details, see Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. .
- Exoteric Buddhism (Kenkyō 顕教).Orthodox Buddhism as opposed to Esoteric Buddhism.
- Historical Buddha. See Shaka Nyorai.
- KARMA, KARMIC RETRIBUTION, Cause and Effect
Sanskrit = KARMAN (deed, fate, or work). Japanese = Inga 因果, Inga Ōhō 因果応報. The law of cause and effect. Doing good deeds will result in good effects, doing bad deeds will result in bad effects. Your actions in this life thus impact where you are “reincarnated” into the next -- see Six States of Existence. In essence, you “reap what you sow.” The sins of the parent are NOT the sins of the child -- that which occurs to you in this life is that which you have brought upon yourself. You are responsible for your actions, not others. This is entirely opposite the Western tendency to place blame on others (e.g., my parents were neurotic, so they made me neurotic). This unwillingness to take responsibility in Christian traditions streches back to Adam and Eve, who themselves blame the serpent for beguiling them into eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. Yet, it appears, after further research, that in early Buddhist traditions among the Jains in India, parents could indeed pass on their bad karma to their children.
Says Daniel J. Boorstin in his book “The Seekers:” <abridged, pages 15, 16, 17>
Karma was a byproduct of belief in the transmigration and reincarnation of souls. Karma was a name for the force of all a person’s acts -- good or evil -- in all past incarnations shaping his destiny in the next incarnation. So karma was an ingenious way of giving each person some responsibility for prosperity or suffering in the present life. A classical form of the idea imagined this karmasaya as an accumulation of the forces of good and evil from what a person did (or failed to do) in earlier incarnations. The suffering or good foturne in the present life, then, was a punishment or reward for earlier acts, just as suffering or good fortune in future lives would compensate for the acts in this life. Writers in the Upanishads suggested that somehow the practice of yoga or the power of a god who lived outside the realm of karma might possibly help get a person off the wheel of samsara. Thus a person might avoid consequences of his acts in earlier incarnations. It is thus conceivable that a devout ascetic, renouncing all corrupting desires, might struggle free of his karmic debts.
Some Hindu sects saw karma as physical seeds that could be passed on through the generations. A dying father, in one Upanishad text, is said to transfer his karma to his son. “Let me place my deeds on you.” Then the son’s acts of atonement would free the father in his later incarnation from the consequences of his own earlier misdeeds. The Jains, from the sixth century B.C., made much of these possibilities. They imagined the pure liva, or living spirit, in each person that could and should be kept free of the karmic pollution that might burdern a person’s next incarnation. The Jains’ discipline aimed to keep the liva unpolluted, and so assure its rising toward enlightenment through rebirths. Their ahimsa, dogma of absolute nonviolence, made them fearful even of accidentally killing insects. As rigorous vegetarians, they applied ahimsa to plants. They refused to pick a living fruit from a tree, but waited till it fell ripe to the ground.
Followers of the Historical Buddha (the latter died about 480 BC), embroidering the Hindu notions, found their own ways of calculating the ethical balance sheet. They distinquished “deed karman” from “mental karman” (thoughts and motivations), and distinguished deeds from their results. They also attached karma to families and nations. But they kept inviolate their belief in the inevitable balancing of the karmic books. A person’s present life was determined by past actions in other incarnations, but only until all those influences had been used up. Still, the chanting of sacred verses by a relative or a monk might reduce the force of evil karma. The Buddhist belief in an all-pervading flux kept them from any idea of a personal immortal soul. But they imagined a kind of karmic residue that adhered through endless incarnations.” <end abridged quote by Daniel Boorstin>
- NIRVANA (Sanskrit)
Japanese = Nehan (or Nibbana) 涅槃. The Historical Buddha sought, through meditation, to attain a state known as Nirvana, in which one is free of desire and therefore suffering. Nirvana literally means "the state of a flame being blown out." It represents the quiet state of mind that exists when the fires of attachment and desire are extinguished. It can also refer to the "flame of death." The death of the Historical Buddha, for example, is referred to as "the Great Extinction." But in general parlance, nirvana means heaven, the ultimate state, the final goal of those who practice Buddhism.
- SAMSARA (Sanskrit)
Japanese = Seishi 生死. The cycle of life and death, rebirth and redeath, of delusion and suffering, in which all sentient beings are trapped unless they can break free of the cycle. The “cycle” refers generally to the Six States of Existence, although there are also two, three, four, seven, and twelve kinds of samsara (not discussed herein). The Six States of Existence are also known as the Six Paths of Reincarnation or Transmigration. One must achieve nirvana (enlightenment, satori) to break free of the cycle of samsara. Breaking free of the cycle of reincarnation is called “emancipation.” Please click here for details on the Six States. In Japan, where Mahayana teachings are widely practiced, groupings of six statues of Jizō Bosatsu are quite common, one for each of the six realms. This grouping is called “Roku Jizo,” or Six Jizo, in Japanese. In the Tantric traditions of Tibet, the Wheel of Life on Tibetan Tankas depicts the six realms with great graphic detail -- the wheel is traditionally clutched in the hands of Yama, the Lord of Death, and shows images of hell, torture, war, human life, divine spirits, and other detailed iconography.
- SANMAYAGYŌ (Sanmayago) 三昧耶形 (e.g., medicine jar of Yakushi Nyorai).
- SHUJI 種子. Sanskrit seed-syllable in Esoteric Buddhism.
- TEACHINGS OF THE HISTORICAL BUDDHA. Click here for Guide to Teachings of Buddha, which includes dozens of terms with Japanese spellings.
SHINTO TERMS / CONCEPTS
Terms that distinguish between Shinto and Buddhist deities, and terms that indicate the syncretism of the two. See the Shinto page for more.
Gongen, Honji, Honjibutsu, Honji Suijaku, Kami, Mitama, Myoujin, Ryoubu Shinto, Shin, Shinbutsu Shugo, Shugendo, Shugenja, Suijaku (Suijyaku), Tamashii, Tenjin, Yamabushi
- Gongen 権現. Gongen (lit. avatar) stems from the word Gonge 権化, which means “reincarnated being” in the Buddhist lexicon imported from China. In Japan, the term Gongen was originally used as a posthumous title for Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康 (1542-1616), the first Shōgun 将軍 of the Edo period, for after his death Ieyasu was given the name Tōshō Daigongen 東照大権現 (Great Avatar). Today the term GONGEN refers to local Japanese deities that embody both Shinto and Buddhist attributes. For many more details, see the GONGEN PAGE. Some of Japan’s most beloved gongen include:
- Sanno Gongen (Sannō) 山王権現, the Monkey Avatar of the Tendai sect and guardian deity of Mt. Hiei 日吉山. Monkeys are patrons of harmonious marriage and safe childbirth at some of the 3,800 Hiei Jinja 日吉神社 shrines in Japan. These shrines are often dedicated to Sannō Gongen 山王権現 (lit. = mountain king avatar), who is a monkey. Sannō is the central deity of Japan's Tendai Shinto-Buddhist multiplex on Mt. Hiei 日吉山 (Shiga Prefecture, near Kyoto). The monkey is Sannō's Shinto messenger (tsukai 使い) and Buddhist avatar (gongen 権現). Details Here.
- Zao Gongen (Zaō) 蔵王権現, the Mountain Avatar and guardian deity of Mt. Kimpu. Zao is venerated nationwide, but especially in the mountain range extending from Yoshino to Kumano (the cradle of Japan’s Shugendo sects). Zao Gongen is said to encompass both realms of the mandala -- the Kongokai (Diamond Realm) and Taizokai (Matrix Realm). The Kongokai represents the wisdom/efforts of Dainichi Buddha to destroy illusion, while Taizokai symbolizes Dainichi's teachings. These two mandala are central to Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. Zao is considered an emanation of three Buddhist divinities -- Shaka Buddha, Kannon, and Miroku. Over the centuries, Zao has been largely supplanted by Fudo Myo-o, a major deity of the Shingon sects. Details Here.
- Kumano Sansho Gongen 熊野三所権現 (Three Avatars of Kumano). The Kumano triad is composed of three Shinto deities and their Buddhist counterparts. There is also a larger gongen group called the Kumano Junisha Gongen 熊野十二社権現 (Twelve Avatars of Kumano), which includes the main three plus nine lesser deities. A 13th deity, named Hiro Gongen 飛滝権現, deifies the Nachi Waterfall in the Kumano area. The three main shrines are Hongū 本宮 (Kumano Nimasu Jinja 熊野座神社); Shingū 新宮 (Kumano Hayatama Jinja 熊野速玉神社); and Nachi 那智 (Kumano Fusumi Jinja 熊野夫須美神社). All three are located near the southern edge of Wakayama prefecture.
Kumano Sansho Gongen (Shinto = Buddhist Counterparts)
- Hongū, Ketsumiko-gami 家都御子神 = Amida Buddha
- Shingū, Hayatamamiya 速玉神 = Yakushi Buddha
- Nachi, Fusumi 夫須美 or Musubi no Kami 結びの神 = 1000-Armed Kannon Bodhisattva
- Doryo Daigongen (Dōryō) 道了大権現. The "Great Avatar Doryo." This man was a mountain ascetic before he became a Soto Zen monk. He was eventually appointed as head cook and administrator at Daiyūzan Temple 大雄山 (Kanagawa Prefecture). However, upon his death in 1411 AD, he vowed to become the guardian of the monastery and he is believed to have metamorphosed into a TENGU 天狗. Details Here.
- Izusan Gongen 伊豆山権現 (also known as Hashiriyu Gongen 走湯権現). The guardian deity of sacred mount Izusan 伊豆山 (a Shugendo site from around the Kamakura period) said to reside at a hot spring on Izusan in Shizuoka prefecture. Over time the deity was linked with Hakone Gongen 箱根権現 and Kourai Gongen 高麗権現 -- the three are considered one and the same. In the Meiji period, when Buddhism and Shintoism were forceably separated by the government, Izusan became a holy Shinto site and many of its Buddhist treasures were lost or scattered. Izusan Gongen is the Shinto manifestation of the Buddhist deity Senju Kannon 千手観音 (1000-armed Kannon).
- Seiryuu Gongen 清滝権現. Female. Enshrined at Jingoji Temple 神護寺 in Takao 高尾 as the protective deity of the Shingon 真言 sect. Brought to Japan from China by Kuukai 空海 (774-836). Considered a manifestation of Nyoirin Kannon 如意輪観音, and one that grants long life, safe births, and wards off natural calamities. Structures in her honor were erected at the summit and foot of Mt. Takao in 1097. She usually appears as a lady wearing court robes (juunihitoe 十二単) and carrying a jewel (houju 宝珠). Also associated with Zennyo Ryuuou 善女竜王. <source = JAANUS>
- Toushou Daigongen 東照大権現. This honorary title was bestowed on Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康 (the first shogun 将軍 of the Edo period) after his death.
- Kojin (Kōjin, Koujin) 荒神, 荒神様, 荒神さん. Syncretic Shinto-Buddhist deity of the kitchen and the cooking stove (kamado, 竃, 竈, also abbreviated as "kama"). Technically, Kojin is not called a Gongen, but the deity’s iconography and attributes are nonetheless those of an avatar. .
- Honji 本地
Honji Suijaku 本地垂迹 (ほんじすいじゃく)
Shinto-Buddhist syncretism was actually formalized and pursued based on a theory called Honji Suijaku, with Shinto gods recognized as manifestations/incarnations (suijaku 垂迹) of the original Buddhist divinities (honji 本地 or honjibutsu 本地仏). In the later Kamakura period some Shinto sects proposed the opposite, proclaiming the Shinto gods as honji and Buddhist deities as suijaku. This latter theory was known as Han Honji Suijaku Setsu or Shinpon Butsuju Setsu.
Honji Suijaku was originally a Buddhist term used to explain the Buddha's nature as a metaphysical being (honji) and the historical human figure Sakyamuni (suijaku) as the manifest trace. In Japan’s early Nara period, the honji were regarded as more important than the suijaku. Gradually they both came to be regarded as one, with neither the honji or suijaku considered more important. For much more on Shinto-Buddhist syncretism, see the below outside web sites:
- Kami 神. Shinto deity. Same meaning as Shin 神 (see below). Motoori Norinaga writes: "In general, kami refers first to the manifold kami of heaven and earth we see in the ancient classics, and to the spirits (Mitama) in shrines consecrated to the same. And it further refers to all other awe-inspiring things -- people of course, but also birds, beasts, grass and trees, even the ocean and mountains -- which possess superlative power not normally found in this world. "Superlative" here means not only superlative in nobility, goodness, or virility, since things which are evil and weird as well, if they inspire unusual awe, are also called kami. <Kojikiden, 3>" For more details, please see Kokugakuin University Encyclopedia of Shinto. Also see our site’s Shinto Kami page.
- Myōjin (Myojin) 明神. Temporal manifestation of the Shinto Kami (Shinto deity). A term used to denote the Shinto origin of the deity. For example, see Shinra Myoujin.
- Ryōbu (Ryobu) Shinto 両部神道. Ryōbu Shinto means dual Shinto. This is a term used to refer generally to Shinto as syncretized with Buddhism, and specifically to that syncretic Shinto as interpreted by Shingon Buddhism (see Shingon Shinto), in contrast to Tendai Shinto. If the shrine has a plaque on it’s gate, it is Ryōbu Shinto, which means Shinto influenced by Buddhism. Because Buddhism and Shinto have coexisted in Japan for hundreds of years, they have had strong influences on each another, even lending each other gods, and altering the way each is practiced.
- Shin 神. Also read “Jin” as in Koujin. It means Shinto deity, and is an alternate reading of the character for "Kami" (see above)
- Shinbutsu Shūgō (Shugo) 神仏習合. Shinbutsu Shūgō means Shinto/Buddhist syncretism. This blending process began in late 7th century, with the Shinto kami considered as suijaku 垂迹 (local Japanese manifestations) of the honjibutsu 本地仏 (universal Buddhist deities). See Shinto Sects page for more details..
- Shugendo 修験道. A syncretic sect of Buddhism that combined pre-Buddhist mountain worship and ascetic practices with Buddhist teachings in the hopes of achieving mystic powers. See Yamabushi below for more details. Learn much more on the Shugendo page..
- Shugenja 修験者. Ascetic monks, or monks of the mountain. See Yamabushi below for more details. Learn much more on the Shugendo page..
- Suijaku 垂迹. Literally trace manifestation, but also translated as Doctrine of Descent. The equivalent of kami 神 in the merging of Buddhist and Shinto deities (see honji suijaku 本地垂迹) that began in the 9th century. Suijaku refers to the recruitment of Shinto deities to the side of Buddhism, specifically to Shinto Kami who were portrayed as emanations (manifestation or “descents”) of Buddhist deities. These syncretic deities were particularly popular among the Shugendo mountain sect.
- Tamashii 魂. A concept closely allied with that of kami is tamashii, frequently rendered as "spirit," as is the word mitama. Tamashii refers to a free floating spiritual force, a spiritual entity from outside which may alternately possess and leave an object. For example, an abundant harvest is produced when the "rice spirit" (inadama) joins itself to the rice grain. In general, tamashii is understood to be an impersonal entity, but when it attaches itself to a physical object or human being, it takes on concrete qualities and becomes apprehended as kami. The two concepts are not always clearly discriminated in practice, however. <above quoted from Kokugakuin University Encyclopedia of Shinto>
- Tenjin 天神. Literally "heaven people," referring to the heavenly gods as opposed to the earthly gods. Tenjin also refers to the deified spirit of Sugawara no Michizane 菅原道真 (845-903). Derived from the combination of the belief in the thunder god (see Fūjin Raijin 風神雷神) with the fear of the resentful ghost of Michizane who died due to a false accusation. <See JAANUS for details>
- Yamabushi 山伏. Ascetic monks, or monks of the mountain. One of the most celebrated mountain sages was En no Gyoja. This legendary holy man was a mountain ascetic of the late 7th century. Like much about Shinto-Buddhist syncretism, his legend is riddled with folklore. He was a diviner at Mt. Katsuragi on the border between Nara and Osaka. Said to possess magical powers, he was expelled in 699 to Izu Prefecture for “misleading” the people and ignoring state restrictions on preaching among commoners. He is considered the father of Shugendo, a major syncretic movement dedicated to achieving mystic powers by combining pre-Buddhist mountain worship and ascetic practices with esoteric Buddhist teachings. Popular lore says En no Gyoja climbed and consecrated numerous sacred mountains. Many yamabushi monks belonged to the Shugendo order. Learn much more on the Shugendo page.
- Bonji (Bija) - Bonji 梵字 is Siddham letter for the sound value
Shuji 種子 = seed
鼻鼓迦 [Pronunciations], [py] bígǔjiā, [kk] ビコカ [hb] bikoka
[Basic Meaning:] bījaka Senses: Also written 鼻致迦. Transliteration of the Sanskrit, meaning seed; translated as 種子. Digital Dictionary of Buddhism: 鼻鼓迦 | bījaka
OTHER ONLINE DICTIONARIES OF TERMINOLOGY
- Buddhist-Artwork.com, our sister site, launched in July 2006. This online store sells quality hand-carved wooden statues of many Buddhist deities, especially those carved for the Japanese market. It is aimed at art lovers, Buddhist practitioners, and laity alike. Just like this site (OnmarkProductions.com), it is not associated with any educational institution, private corporation, governmental agency, or religious group.