BUDDHA (Sanskrit) – one who has awakened to the true nature of existence. Historically, the Buddha refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama. The word can also refer to the ultimate fact of reality.

BUDDHA NATURE – a term that refers to the state of perfection inherent in all forms of creation. Buddha nature is one’s true nature and birthright.

DHARMA (Sanskrit) – a word that can mean any one of the following: the way (as in method), the teaching, the law, the ultimate truth. Dharma is the expression of true nature. In zen practice, it often means the practice of the Buddha’s way and his teaching.

DOJO (Japanese) – practice hall; gymnasium.

DOKUSAN (Japanese) – a private interview with the teacher in his/her room.

GASSHO (Japanese) – the gesture of raising the hands, palms together, to indicate respect, gratitude, humility, or all three. The fingertips should be level with the nostrils.

GODO (Japanese) – assistant of the jikido.

HANYA SHINGYO (Japanese) – The Heart Sutra. This Mahayana sutra expounds on the core truth of zen practice: Form is nothing but emptiness; emptiness is nothing but form.

INKIN (Japanese) – a small, high-pitched hand bell used in the zendo.

INO (Japanese) – in a temple or monastery, the monk in charge of leading chants and sutra recitation.

JIKIDO (Japanese) – the monitor in charge of the zendo. This person is in charge of the physical environment in the zendo. Only the jikido may turn lights, electric fans and other devices on and off.

KENSHO (Japanese) – the initial experience of enlightenment.

KINHIN (Japanese) – walking meditation done between periods of zazen to restore circulation in the lower extremities.

KOAN (Japanese) – the expression of a universal truth in conundrum form. Koan are riddles that cannot be solved using the discursive intellect.

KYOSAKU (Japanese) – the stick used to arouse dormant energy.

MAHAYANA (Sanskrit) – the stream of Buddhism known as “the Great Vehicle”. Zen Buddhism is one of the Mahayana sects.

MAKYO (Japanese) – illusory sensual (visual, auditory, olfactory) phenomena that could arise from deep sitting. One should not let makyo disturb his/her practice. The occurrence of makyo should be reported to the teacher.

ROSHI (Japanese) – a zen master; literally means venerable teacher.

SAMADHI (Sanskrit) – a state of intense yet effortless contemplation and awareness.

SAMU (Japanese) – a period of manual labor.

SANGHA (Sanskrit) – a community of practitioners.

SATORI (Japanese) – deep enlightenment, Self-realization.

SEIZA (Japanese) – the traditional Japanese way of sitting, with the back erect and the buttocks resting on one’s heels.

SENSEI (Japanese) – teacher.

SESSHIN (Japanese) – a zen retreat which involves complete silence and intensive sitting.

SHIKANTAZA (Japanese) – the highest form of zen practice, literally just one-pointed sitting in zazen with full awareness without the benefit of counting or watching the breath, working on a koan or concentrating on anything.

SHOKEN (Japanese) – very the first interview of the student with his/her teacher with the student having the purpose of formally starting zen practice. The bowing protocol is different between shoken and regular dokusan.

SUTRA (Sanskrit) – an ancient document, usually from the Indian subcontinent, written in a silk roll; literally “a thread on which jewels are strung”. In zen, almost all sutras are the recorded discourses of Shakyamuni Buddha.

TANTO (Japanese) – the most senior  practitioner next to the teacher. In a monastery, the Tanto is usually the head monk.

TENZO (Japanese) – the person in charge of the meals and the kitchen.

TEISHO (Japanese) – a public teaching given by a zen master or a zen teacher. Unlike homilies and sermons, a teisho is a direct presentation of the truth aimed to catalyze an enlightenment experience.

THERAVADA (Sanskrit) – the stream of Buddhism known as “the Teaching of the Elders”. The Sanskrit term Hinayana, which means “the Little Vehicle”, refers to the same branch but has a derogatory connotation.

YAZA (Japanese) – zazen done after 9 p.m. (the normal bedtime for monks), usually lasting until dawn of the next day.

ZAFU (Japanese) – the black round cushion used for sitting.

ZABUTON (Japanese) – the square black cushion used for sitting.

ZAZEN (Japanese) – sitting zen meditation. For zen practitioners, the term sitting is synonymous with zazen.

ZAZENZAI (Japanese) – a gathering, usually lasting one day, for zazen, teisho and dokusan.

ZEN (Japanese) – an abbreviated form of the word zenna which is a transliteration of the Chinese word ch’an which in turn comes from the Sanskrit dhayna. Zen is a process of concentration and absorption by which the mind is brought to equanimity and then to awakening. The classic definition of zen attributed to Bodhidharma is “ a special transmission outside the scriptures, not dependent on words and letters, pointing to the nature of mind, seeing directly into one’s true nature, and attaining enlightenment.” Son is the Korean word for zen.

ZENDO (Japanese) – zen meditation hall.

ZENJI (Japanese) – an honorific term referring to a great or renowned zen master.