Japanese Buddhist Terminology

I volunteer in a public facing role as a Buddhist in the north of England. Any tips or just facts or examples about Japanese Buddhist Terminology would be very welcome and helpful


For specifically Japanese Buddhist terminology, this site would be a good starting off point.


I mean I am also trying to learn Tibetan but I’m at a strictly ABC level with that lol. Thanks for the link that looks really a great place to start :slight_smile:

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Anything about Jizo especially welcome as Kshitigarbha Practice is pretty central here

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@kinakomochi sounds like one of your areas of expertise


Well Jizo is a bosatu which is the Japanese term for bodhisattva. He protects children and pregnant women, and argues in favor of the dead when their sins are judged. Since he guides children to heaven if they die without prayers, mizuko (stillborn, miscarried, or aborted children) he is also sometimes looked upon as a protector of travelers, in some ways supplanting the original dosojin who were Shinto deities of travel. The red bibs, if I remember correctly are maekake. That is as much as I can remember without research, but I suppose you can research up yourself as well.


The Onmark Productions link @_Marcus posted is the one I use when I want to refresh or learn anew about the history of Japanese Buddhism and statuary. Past that are only my individual exps living as a monk for a short time in a 臨済宗[1] monastery, 超禅寺[2] in Kalihi Valley, HI in the '90s.

Here’s a list of some of the terms that became daily household words during my cloister:

老師[3] – a Zen Master, or enlightened teacher, in the Rinzai sect or 曹洞宗[4] lineages of Buddhism.

直日[5] – a monk in charge of leading and managing 座禅[6] sitting meditation in the Rinzai lineage. Wikipedia article with lots of other terms related to the jiki

接心[7] – an intense meditation training period held usually twice a year, in a Rinzai or Soto Zen temple. Link

悟り[8] – enlightenment in the Zen schools of Buddhism, where one sees their true, original nature

samadhi – a state of meditative absorption, where there is no difference between self and other, total relaxation and concentration.

香炉[9] – a small bowl filled with 尉[10], which serves as the censer for 線香[11]

経行[12] – a period of ~10 mins of walking meditation, between extended sitting meditations

摩羅[13] – distractions, defilements, and other obstacles to enlightenment[14]

  1. りんざいしゅう, rinzaishuu – Rinzai sect ↩︎

  2. ちょうぜんじ Chouzen-ji ↩︎

  3. ろうし roushi ↩︎

  4. そうとうしゅう soutoushuu – Soto Zen sect ↩︎

  5. じきじつ jikijitsu ↩︎

  6. ざぜん zazen ↩︎

  7. せっしん sesshin ↩︎

  8. さとり satori ↩︎

  9. こうろ kouro ↩︎

  10. じょう, jou – white charcoal ash ↩︎

  11. せんこう, senkou – joss sticks ↩︎

  12. きんひん, kinhin ↩︎

  13. まら, mara ↩︎

  14. in my novice case, simple distraction from concentration during meditation… but also the way the mind creates its own ways to dissuade you from pursuing depth of meditation, due to the pain of novice sitting posture ↩︎


Ah now what’s really interesting to me there that is instantly apparent, is that I had never fully appreciated that Japanese Roushi is the same as Chinese Laoshi which is very obvious now I see it. So in terms of my confidence talking about the broad history of Buddhism that’s quite a big item. Thank you :slight_smile:


But it’s really helpful to have the help of others also. I find I remember language that comes from human interaction better than stuff I just attempt to memorise off a list. So thank you :slight_smile:

Or at least the same as Traditional Chinese. The Simplified Chinese is a little different

Aye, kanji tends to resemble traditional Chinese rather than simplified more often than not. That said, Japanese has also done its own simplifications, which aren’t always the same as the ones Chinese did.

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I tend to find that learning both Chinese and Japanese supports comprehension even if it sometimes obstructs intuitive fluency. But that’s fine for me because History mostly dictates that I will live in England till I die so developing my reading and listening skills as much as I can is a totally suitable goal. And in that regard Wanikani has been great because the sheer skill of recognition of characters is a mostly transferable skill. This is a good example of where being able to navigate between the two languages is useful to me personally. The General Public love to catch you off your guard if they can so even though I only talk to them for 60 seconds, knowing the link between Laoshi as a teacher in a general sense and Roushi as a Rinzai or Soto Zen teacher specifically is a real deepening of my storehouse

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