Alaya consciousness.

Also called "store consciousness, "eighth consciousness," or "karma repository." See also "Eight consciousnesses."


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 Sutra.

See "Three Pure Land Sutras." 



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.) See also "Sravakas." 



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



Also called Kuan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Usually recognizable by the small Buddha adorning Her crown. 


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 Sakyamuni, 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 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.)


Awakening of the Faith (Treatise).

A major commentary by the Patriarch Asvaghosha (1st/2nd cent.), which presents the fundamental principles of Mahayana Buddhism. Several translations exist in English. 


Bardo stage.

The intermediate stage between death and rebirth. 



Sanskrit for Enlightenment. 


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. 



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. 


Bodhisattva Grounds.

See "Ten Grounds." 


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. 


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.


Buddha Recitation.

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.


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 "Outflows," "Unconditioned." 



See "Alaya consciousness" and "Eight consciousnesses." 


Dedication of Merit.

See "Transference of Merit." 


Definitive (Ultimate) Meaning.

See "Two Truths." 


Degenerate Age.

See "Dharma-Ending Age." 


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.


Delusions of Views and Thought.

Delusion of views refers to greed and lust for externals (clothing, food, sleep, etc.) which are viewed as real rather than empty in their true nature. Delusions of views, simply put, are delusions connected with seeing and grasping at the gross level. Delusions of thought are afflictions at the subtle level. 



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.



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


Dharma Door.

School, method, tradition. 


Dharma-Ending Age, Degenerate Age.

The present spiritually degenerate era, twenty-six centuries after the demise of Sakyamuni Buddha.


Dharma Nature.

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


Dharma Realm (Cosmos, Dharmadhatu, realm of reality, realm of Truth).

The term has several meanings in the sutras: i) the infinite universe, consisting of worlds upon worlds ad infinitum; ii) the nature or essence of all things; iii) the Mind. 


Dharma Seals.

Sakyamuni Buddha taught three "Dharma seals," or criteria, to determine the genuineness of Buddhist teachings, namely, impermanence, suffering, no-self. A fourth criterion, emptiness, is also mentioned in the sutras. Thus, the Truth of Impermanence is basic to Buddhism ... After seeing an old man, a sick man and a corpse, the young prince Siddhartha (Sakyamuni Buddha) decided to leave the royal life to become an ascetic.



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. 


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."' (Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen.) See also "Prajnaparamita Sutras." 


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). 


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). 


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.


Eight Adversities.

The eight conditions under which it is difficult to meet Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or hear the Dharma: 1. rebirth in the hells; 2. rebirth as a hungry ghost; 3. rebirth as an animal; 4. rebirth in Uttarakuru (a world where life is so pleasant that people have no motivation to practice the Dharma); 5. rebirth in any long-life heaven (where one is also not motivated to seek the Dharma); 6. rebirth with impaired faculties; 7. rebirth as an intelligent, educated person in the mundane sense (as such an individual often looks down on religion and on the Dharma); and 8. rebirth in the intermediate period between a Buddha and his successor (e.g., our current period). Thus, even rebirth under "favorable" circumstances (fourth and seventh conditions, for example) may constitute adversity with respect to the Buddha Dharma. (After G.C.C. Chang.) 


Eight Consciousnesses.

The term "consciousness" refers to the perception or discernment which occurs when our sense organs make contact with their respective objects. They are: 1) sight consciousness; 2) hearing consciousness; 3) scent consciousness; 4) taste consciousness; 5) touch consciousness; 6) mind consciousness (Mano consciousness or ordinary mind); 7) klistamanas consciousness (defiled mind); 8) Alaya consciousness. The first five consciousnesses correspond to the five senses. The sixth consciousness "integrates the perceptions of the five senses into coherent images and makes judgments about the external world ..." (A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts.) "The seventh consciousness is the active center of reasoning calculation, and construction or fabrication of individual objects. It is the source of clinging and craving, and thus the origin of the sense of self or ego and the cause of all illusion that arises from assuming the apparent to be real ..." (Sung-peng Hsu.) For the eighth or Alaya consciousness, see "Alaya consciousness." 


Eight Sufferings.

Birth, old age, disease, death, separation from loved ones, meeting with the uncongenial, unfulfilled wishes and the suffering associated with the five raging skandas. (For a detailed exposition of the eight sufferings, see Thich Thien Tam, Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith, sect. 5.) 


Emptiness (Void,Sunyata).

Connotes "first, Void in the sense of antithesis of being; second, the state of being 'devoid' of specific character; third, Void in the highest sense, or Transcendental Void, i.e., all oppositions synthesized ...; and fourth, the Absolute Void or the Unconditioned." (Vergilius Ferm, ed. An Encyclopedia of Religions.)



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, targeted 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 Desires (Five Sensual Pleasures).

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


Five Grave Offenses (Five Deadly Sins).

Offenses which cause rebirth in the Uninterrupted Hell. They are: killing one's father, one's mother, or an Arhat, causing dissension within the Sangha, causing the Buddhas to bleed. 


Five Meditations.

Basic meditations usually associated with Theravada Buddhism (meditation on impurities of the body, on compassion, on the twelve links of conditional existence, on the auspicious marks of the Buddhas and as well as counting the breath). 


Five Periods and Eight Teachings.

All the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni during His entire lifetime, as categorized by the T'ien-T'ai school. 


Five Precepts.

See "Ten Virtues." 


Five Signs of Decay.

Refers to symptoms of imminent death and rebirth in a lower realm, experienced by celestials and deities at the end of their transcendental lives, such as body odor, restlessness, etc. Please note that celestials and deities are still within the realm of Birth and Death. The Pure Land, being a Buddha land, is beyond Birth and Death. 


Five Skandas.

Also translated as "components" or "aggregates." They represent body and mind. The five skandas are form, feeling, conception, impulse and consciousness. For example, form is the physical body, consciousness is the faculty of awareness. The best known reference to the five skandas is found in the Heart Sutra. By realizing that they are intrinsically empty, the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara has escaped all suffering. Note the difference between intellectual understanding of this principle and truly internalizing it (a good driver slams on the brakes when another car cuts in front of him, without stopping to think about it). Only by internalizing the Truth of Emptiness, through assiduous cultivation, can suffering be transcended. 


Five Turbidities (Corruptions, Defilements,Depravities, Filth,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; 5. the defilement of the world-age, when war and natural disasters are rife. Please note that these conditions, viewed from a Buddhist angle, can constitute aids to Enlightenment, as they may spur practitioners to more earnest cultivation. (After G.C.C.Chang.) 


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 Sakyamuni 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 Constituents.

Earth, water, wind and fire. 


Four Fruits.

Refers to four levels of Enlightenment, culminating in Arhatship. Arhats are no longer subject to rebirth in samsara, i.e., in the cycle of Birth and Death. 


Four Great Debts.

The debt to the Triple Jewel, the debt to our parents and teachers, the debt to our spiritual friends, and finally, the debt we owe to all sentient beings. 


Four Propositions.

a) existence; b) non-existence; c) both existence and non-existence; d) neither. The 100 errors are derived from these propositions. 


Four-fold Assembly.

The Assembly of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. 


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." 



See "Ten Grounds." 


Hui Neng.

See "Sixth Patriarch." 


Illusion (Maya).

One of the key concepts in Buddhism.

Insight into Non-arising of the Dharmas.



See "Tolerance of Non-Birth." 



Action leading to future retribution or reward, in the current or future lifetimes.




"The shortest measure of time; sixty ksana equal one finger-snap, ninety a thought, 4,500 a minute." (Charles Luk.) 


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. 


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 Sutra.

A major Buddhist text and one of the most widely read sutras in the present day. 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. 


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. 



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." 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.

Middle Way (Madhyamika).



The way between and above all extremes, such as hedonism or asceticism, existence or emptiness, eternalism or nihilism, samsara or Nirvana, etc. The Middle Way is a basic tenet of Buddhism. See also "Nagarjuna." 



Key concept in all Buddhist teaching. 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.

Mind-Only School.



See "Yogacara School." 


Mindfulness of the Buddha.

Synonymous with Buddha Recitation. See "Buddha Recitation." 



(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.) See also "Middle Way." 


Nature and Marks.

See "Marks." 


Nine Realms.

All realms in the cosmos, with the exception of the Buddha realms. 


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." 



Key Buddhist truth. Can be understood as not two and not one -- transcending two and one. Equivalent to Reality, Truth, Emptiness. 



Noumenon: principle, essence of things, always one and indivisible. Phenomena: All things and events. Used in plural form to contrast with noumenon. Thus, for example, the word "Buddha" can mean the Buddha with His thirty-two auspicious marks (phenomena) or, at a higher level, the True Nature inherent in all sentient beings (noumenon). See also "Marks." 


Ocean Seal Samadhi.

A state of concentration of the highest level, mentioned, inter alia, in the Avatamsaka Sutra. The mind is likened to the ocean, which, when calm and without a single wave, can reflect everything throughout the cosmos, past, present and future. 


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. 


One-Life Bodhisattva.

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


One-pointedness of mind.

Singlemindedness or singleminded concentration. 


Original Nature.

See "Buddha Nature." 



See "Easy Path of Practice." 


Other shore.

A metaphor for Enlightenment and Buddhahood. 



"With outflows" = leaking, i.e., mundane or conditioned. "Without outflows" = without leakage, transcendental or unconditioned. See also "Conditioned," "Unconditioned." 



Means "the perfection of" or "reaching the other shore" (Enlightenment) as contrasted with this shore of suffering and mortality. The paramitas are usually six in number (charity, discipline, forbearance, diligent practice, concentration, wisdom) or expanded to ten (adding expedients, vows, power and knowledge). Mahayana emphasizes the paramita of expedients, or skill-in-means. 


Path of Sages.

See "Difficult Path of Practice." 


Perfect Teaching (Round Teaching).

Supreme teaching of the Buddhas, as expressed in the Avatamsaka and Lotus Sutras. 


Platform Sutra.

See "Sixth Patriarch." 


Prajnaparamita Sutras.

"Term for a series of about forty Mahayana sutras gathered together under this name because they all deal with the realization of prajna [intuitive wisdom] ... Best known in the West are theDiamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra. Their most important interpreter was Nagarjuna." (Shambhala Dictionary.) The Truth of sunyata, or emptiness, is central to these sutras, which teach non-attachment to self or dharmas. See also "Diamond Sutra." 


Pratyeka Buddhas.

"These buddhas become fully enlightened ... by meditating on the principle of causality. Unlike the Perfect Buddhas, however, they do not exert themselves to teach others" (A. Buzo and T. Prince). 


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


Pure Land Sutras.

See "Three Pure Land Sutras." 


Saha World.

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



Meditative absorption. "Usually denotes the particular final stage of pure concentration." There are many degrees and types of samadhi (Buddha Recitation, Ocean Seal, Pratyutpanna ...) 



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." 



"Tranquility and contemplation; stopping evil thoughts and meditating on the truth." (Hisao Inagaki.) 



Cycle of rebirths; realms of Birth and Death. 



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



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. 



See "One-pointedness of mind." 


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 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.

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


Skillful Means.

See "Expedient Means." 


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., '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." 



One of Buddha Sakyamuni's major disciples. Foremost among Arhats in understanding the doctrine of the Void (Emptiness). However, the Buddha predicted in theLotus Sutra, chapter 6, that he would achieve Buddhahood with the title Name-and-Form Buddha, thus demonstrating that Emptiness is Form and Form is Emptiness -- the two are not different (Heart Sutra.) 


Sudden (Abrupt) Teaching.

A teaching which enables one to attain Enlightenment immediately. It is usually associated with the Avatamsaka Sutra. 


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. 



See "Eight Sufferings." 


Surangama Sutra.

Also called Heroic Gate Sutra.



Usually translated as "Thus Come One."


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. (Note: taking intoxicants is not included in this formulation.) See also "Ten Virtues." 


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 Grounds (Bodhisattva Grounds, Ten Stages).

According to the Mahayana sutras, there are a total of 52 (or 53) levels of attainment before a cultivator achieves Buddhahood. The 41st to 50th levels constitute the Ten Grounds. Above these are the levels of Equal Enlightenment, Wonderful Enlightenment (and Buddhahood). 


Ten Mysterious Gates (Ten Esoteric Doors, Ten Mysteries, Ten Profound Propositions).

Ten aspects of the interrelationship of all phenomena, as seen from the enlightened point of view. To explain such relationship and harmony,


Ten Precepts.

See "Ten Virtues." 


Ten Recitations.

"Ten recitations" refers to the Ten Recitations method, based on the lowest grade of rebirth described in the Meditation Sutra. It is taught to persons busy with mundane activities, so that they, too, can practice Buddha Recitation and achieve rebirth in the Pure Land. The method consists of uttering Amitabha Buddha's name approximately ten times each time one inhales or exhales. The real intent behind this practice is to use the breath to concentrate the mind. Depending on the cultivator's breath span, he may recite more than ten utterances or fewer. After ten inhalations/exhalations (or some fifty to one hundred utterances in total) the cultivator should proceed to transfer the merits accrued toward rebirth in the Pure Land. 


Ten Stages.

See "Ten Grounds." 


Ten Thousand Conducts.

All the countless activities and cultivation practices of the Bodhisattvas. 


Ten Virtues (Ten Good Deeds, Ten Precepts).

Abstaining from the Ten Evil Acts. The Ten Virtues include an expanded version of the Five Precepts of body and mouth (not to kill, steal, engage in illicit sex, lie, engage in slander, coarse language or chatter) with the addition of the virtues of the mind (elimination of greed, anger and delusion). See also "Ten Evil Acts." 


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.


Three Doors to Liberation.

"Liberation is possible only through these three realizations: 1) All things are devoid of a self (emptiness). 2) There are no objects to be perceived by sense-organs (signlessness). 3) No wish of any kind whatsoever remains in the ... [practitioner's] mind, for he no longer needs to strive for anything (wishlessness)." (G.C.C. Chang.)


Three Evil Paths.

See "Evil Paths." 


Three Pure Land Sutras.

Pure Land Buddhism is based on three basic sutras:


Three Treasures (Triple Jewel)

The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha (community of monks). 


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." 


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." 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." 


Three Realms.

See "Triple Realm." 


Transference of Merit.

The concept of merit transference, or sharing one's own merits and virtues with others, is reflected in the following passage:


Triple Jewel.

See "Three Treasures." 


Triple Realm (Three Realms, 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." 


True Thusness (True Suchness).

Equivalent to Buddha Nature, Dharma Body, etc. See also "Buddha Nature," "Dharma Nature." 


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. 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. 


Unconditioned (Transcendental).

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



The Queen of King Bimbisara of Magadha, India. It was in response to her entreaties that Buddha Sakyamuni 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. 



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


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. 



See "Merit and Virtue." 



See Meditation Sutra for explanation. The 13th Visualization has been summarized as follows: Visualizations 14-16 refer to the nine lotus grades (of rebirth), divided into three sets of three grades each. 



The path leading to Supreme Enlightenment, to Buddhahood. 



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


Worldly Dusts.

See "Dusts." 


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:


Realms of worlds in empty space might reach an end, 

And living beings, karma and afflictions be extinguished; 

But they will never be exhausted, 

And neither will my vows.

The Vows of Samantabhadra