Thank You and OK!
An American Zen Failure in Japan
Brief definitions of some Japanese and Buddhist terms, as used in this book
(Skt. means Sanskrit)
Abhidharma - Ancient Indian psychological branch of Buddhist teaching detailing the elements of reality.
Avalokiteshvara - Skt. - the bodhisattva of compassion who hears the cries of the world.
bessu - Ceremonial padded white socks without toe chamber.
Bodhidharma - An Indian monk who became the first ancestor of Zen in China.
bodhisattva - Skt. - enlightening being, one who vows to enter Nirvana after all others, who vows to save all beings.
bonshō - Large bronze hanging temple bell.
daikon - Giant white Japanese radish.
dhāranī - Skt. - chants or incantations, the sounds of which have beneficial effects, encouraging compassion or longevity.
dharma - Skt. - Buddhist law, teaching.
dhyāna Skt. - Buddhist meditation.
doan - A monk whose responsibilities include hitting bells.
Dōgen Zenji [Eihei Dogen] - The founder of Soto Zen in Japan.
dōjō - Practice hall.
dokusan - Soto Zen term for sanzen, private interview with the teacher.
eightfold path - The way to Nirvana: right meditation, right wisdom, right livelihood, etc.
Eiheiji - One of the two head temples of Soto Zen.
fusuma - Sliding door or partition, often covered by thick paper.
futon - Bedding.
gaijin - Foreigner (literally, “outside person”).
gambatte - Go for it, make a strong effort.
gasshō - Buddhist gesture of greeting, with the palms of the hands placed together.
gāthā - Skt. - originally a song, a short verse used to remind one of fundamental intention in the midst of everyday activities.
genmai cha - Green tea with some brown rice in it.
geta - Wooden platform sandals.
hai - Yes.
han - Wooden plaque struck with a mallet to call monks to the zendō.[lit. - wood]
hashi - Chopsticks.
hattō - Dharma hall, often the main temple building.
Heart Sutra - The core text of the Prajnā Pāramitā Sūtras, the Perfection of Wisdom, teaching on emptiness.
hinoki - Japanese cypress, temple carpenters’ favorite.
Hōjō-san - Title for the head priest of a temple.
hōmu sutōru - A home store.
hondō - The main hall, or building, of a temple.
hōyō - A Buddhist memorial service.
ino - Soto Zen term for the officer in charge of ceremony and zendo discipline.
janken - The scissors, paper, stone game played with hands.
jinja - Shinto shrine
jisha - Attendant to the abbot or officiating priest.
Jōdo Shin-shū - “The true school of the Pure Land,” a faith-oriented sect of Buddhism, the largest in Japan.
Kabuki - A popular, bawdy drama developed in the seventeenth century and characterized by elaborate costume and stylized acting by an all male cast. Now a classical theater form.
kama - A short-handled sickle.
kami - Spirits; gods associated with Shinto. Also used to mean God the creator.
kana - The Japanese syllabaries, hiragana and katakana.
kanji - Chinese characters (ideographs) used in Japanese writing.
karaoke - Wildly popular activity often done in night clubs wherein people sing along with instrumental versions of popular songs (literally “empty orchestra”).
kesa - Outer monk’s robe of ordination (okesa, more respectfully).
ki - Vital, dynamic energy of body, mind and spirit; chi in Chinese.
kinhin - Walking zazen.
kōan - Literally, “public case,” an exemplary story or dialogue used as a meditation object and worked on with a teacher.
koromo - The long-sleeved monk’s robe worn over the kimono and under the kesa.
koto - A plucked stringed instrument having seven or thirteen strings stretched over a convex wooden sounding board.
kuin - The temple kitchen.
kunugi - A kind of oak.
kyōsaku - Soto Zen term for the stick used to hit drowsy monks on the shoulder in order to bring them back to alertness.
mamushi - Japan’s main poisonous snake.
matcha - Powdered green tea associated with tea ceremony.
mizo - A water run-off ditch, from curb to canal size.
mochi - Gluten rice cake, popular at new years.
Mountain Seat Ceremony - A rite in which the abbotship of a temple is passed on to the successor.
mu - Name of the most famous kōan of Zen. See “Does a dog have buddha nature?” [lit. - no]
mukade - A kind of poisonous centipede.
namagomi - Organic garbage.
nani - What.
nine clay balls - Reference to a very old Soto Zen method of wiping the behind.
obentō - Boxed meal, compartmentalized meal, from cheap to fancy.
obi - A sash wrapped around the waist over the kimono.
ofuro - Bathtub (respectful form of furo).
ohaka - Grave, tomb, graveyard (respectful form of haka).
omedetō - Congratulations.
ōryōki - Monks’ stacked and cloth-wrapped eating bowls.
ōsetsuma - Parlor.
rakusu - Monk or lay biblike vestment.
ramen - A type of Chinese noodle very popular in Japan.
Rinzai - Zen - One of the two main sects of Zen, emphasizing vigorous dynamic style and systematic koan study.
rōshi - Venerable old teacher; respectful title for priest, especially in the U.S., where it is used as a title to mean Zen master.
sama - Polite form of address used after the name of another (never of oneself).
samādhi - Skt. - a deep meditative state.
samu - Temple work practice.
samue - Temple work clothes.
sangha - Skt. - the Buddhist community.
sanmon - The entrance gate to a temple, often a substantial building.
sanzen - Private interview with the Zen master concerning koan, breathing, Zen practice. Usually a Rinzai term.
seiza - Traditional Japanese position for sitting on floor wherein one rests on the knees and shins.
sensei - Title of respect, used especially for teachers, doctors and other professionals.
sesshin - A concentrated zazen retreat of one or more days, usually five or seven.
shashu - A formal position wherein the hands are held together at the solar plexus.
shiku - -nichi - Days for attending to private tasks in temple life (literally, four-nine days).
Shinto - Japan’s native animist religion.
shōji - Sliding door of latticework and translucent rice paper.
shū - Sect, as in Sōtō-shū.
soba - Buckwheat noodles.
sodai - gomi - Coarse trash, big useless stuff; often used as a term for retired husbands (who are also called “wet leaves”).
Sōtō - Zen - (In Eng., Soto Zen) One of the two main sects of Zen, emphasizing “just sitting” or silent illumination meditation, and its application to everyday activity.
stūpa - Skt. - memorial monuments, originally built for the historical Buddha, pagoda being a type of stupa.
sugi - Japanese cedar.
sumi - Traditional black ink.
sumimasen - Something like “excuse me.”
sunakku - Night club or bar (literally, “snack”).
sūtra - Skt. - discourses of the Buddha, used more loosely for old Buddhist scriptures or scriptures to be chanted.
suzumebachi - “Sparrow” bee.
tabi - Socks with a separate pocket for the big toe.
takuhatsu - Formal monk’s begging (literally, to entrust the bowl).
tenzo - The head of the temple kitchen.
tōsu - Temple toilet.
uguisu - Japanese nightingale.
ushigaeru - Bullfrog.
yakitori - Japanese shish kebab (literally, grilled chicken) and the restaurants that specialize in such.
yakuseki - Monk’s informal supper.
yakuza - The Japanese crime syndicates.
yamabato - Turtledove.
zabuton - Flat square cushion to kneel or sit on.
zafu - Zazen cushion, usually black and round.
zagu - The monk’s bowing cloth.
zazen - Zen meditation, sitting meditation.
zazenkai - Zazen group or meeting.
zendō - Zen meditation hall, zazen hall.
zōri - Traditional straw sandals, now usually plastic thongs.