ACUPUNCTURE – Traditional Chinese yin-yang medicine, utilizing needles, massage and moxery (heat carried from outer skin to inner organs).
AEON – The longest possible period of time. In India, a kalpa is thought of as an aeon, and it is almost unbelievably long.
AGNI – The god, or essence, of fire in Indian belief.
AKASHA – Sanskrit word for space. Indian philosophy says that, ultimately, there are only two things in the universe, Prana (intrinsic energy) and space.
AMIDA – Japanese name for the Buddha of Infinite Light, who will take those who remember his name at least ten times to the Pure Land, the Western Paradise.
AMITABHA – Name of the Buddha of Infinite Light in India and China. Sometimes referred to as Amitayus.
ARIGATAI – Thankful in Japanese, sometimes used as “thankfulness.”
ASHRAM – Originally a forest community gathered about a great teacher in India. Now used in the sense of a commune with spiritual intentions.
ASTRAL TRAVELING – In India they speak of the “sheaths,” that is, more than one body within the physical body. Aside from the gross body of flesh and blood, which is lost at death, there are other bodies which are maintained after death (and in sleep). The astral is one. Some people, deliberately or inadvertently, have the ability to leave the physical body and travel in the astral – seeing others and other places, invisible to others. This is a highly dangerous practice.
AURA – It is said that there is a shimmering field of light around the body, and psychics claim they can tell the emotions of one they are watching by noting the color, depth and intensity of this aura. Often in religious pictures we see such a circle of light around the head of a saint. It is believed that certain types of very modern photography can photograph the aura.
AUROBINDO, SRI [1872-1950] – (The first word is pronounced Shree, a term of respect.) Aurobindo was educated in England, where he was groomed for a life in the elite Indian Civil Service under the British Raj. He taught at the University of Baroda and became closely connected with Gandhi’s independence movement, being frequently jailed for periods of time. He eventually withdrew from revolutionary activities and dedicated his life to spiritual work. He is known for his Integral Yoga, his great poem about the divinity of the sun, Savitri, and the ashram he formed at Pondicherry, probably the largest in India.
AVATAR – A direct incarnation of the Lord. It is believed there have been ten avatars (incarnations on earth) of Lord Vishnu, the Sustainer in the Indian trio of gods (Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Sustainer, and Shiva the Destroyer). Krishna was a famous avatar in India, and some believe Sathya Sai Baba [1926-2011] was one.
AYURVEDA – The name given to ancient traditional Indian medicine, which uses herbs, gems and Mantras for healing. It is closely connected with Indian scriptures.
BACKWARD FLOWING METHOD – Known in Tibet, where it is practiced in the Left-Hand Tantra (sometimes referred to as the Yoga of Sex), and also by Chinese Taoists, this method consists of taking the “essence,” in the form of the semen or sexual energy, back up the spine to the top of the head, transmuting the sexual energy into something higher rather than expelling it through the sex organ.
BHAGAVAN – Lord in the Indian languages.
BHAKTI – The practice of devotion to an aspect of the Lord. Bhakti Yoga is one of the major types of Yoga practice. Japa is essentially devotional Bhakti.
BHUH BHUVAH SVAH – The first line of the sacred Gayatri Mantra is Om Bhuh Bhuvah Svah, with the latter three words representing earth, sky and heaven, supposedly sounds of creation (“In the beginning was the Word…”)
BINDU – Literally means point, an unextended point that represents the essence of life. In practice, it sometimes refers to the semen.
BODH GAYA – A place in northeast India not too far from Benares (present-day Varanasi). It is here that Siddhartha Gautama sat under the Bodhi tree until he achieved perfect enlightenment at the moment of seeing the morning star; therefore, it is a sacred place of Buddhists, as the Buddha (Gautama) realized his perfection there.
BODHISATTVA – Literally, the essence of wisdom being. A Bodhisattva is a saint on his way to becoming a Buddha, but he takes a vow to save all sentient beings before he achieves perfection (Nirvana).
BRAHMA – The creator god of the Indian trilogy of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
BREATH-DHYANA – A name the author has given to the practice of counting either the out-breaths or in-breaths with eyes closed, as taught by the Buddha. It leads to deep meditation, as signified by the Sanskrit word dhyana.
BUBBLING SPRING – This is a key acupuncture point on the sole of the foot and is the focus of concentration in T’ai Chi Chih.
BUDDHA [circa 563 BCE to 483 BCE] – The term Buddha means the Awakened One and, with all the great sages of history that India has known, it is only applied to one person, Siddhartha Gautama of the Sakya nation, sometimes known as Shakyamuni. The great Buddhist religion derives from this term applied to the founder 2500 years ago. Other Buddhas spoken of are not historical persons.
CHAKRA – Literally means wheel. The Indians refer to four or five psychic centers in the body as chakras.
CHAN – The Chinese name for Zen Buddhism. Literally it means meditation, as it is a transliteration of the Pali language jhana and the Sanskrit dyana.
CHI – The intrinsic energy or Vital Force, synonymous with the Indian Prana. Sometimes associated with the breath, it is actually what is doing the breathing.
CHIH (not Chi) – Spelled this way, the word has many meanings. In T’ai Chi Chih, the Chih means knowledge or knowing. In Chih-K’uan, which is the Chinese for the Indian Samatha-Samapatti, it means stoppage, with Chih-Kuan being “stopping and a view.”
CHIH-KUAN – A meditation of the Chinese Tiantai Buddhists. First a “stopping” (fixation on a point of the body) and then a “view” (introspection of the thoughts).
CHING CHI SHEN – A popular Chinese spiritual expression, referring to essence, intrinsic energy, spirit. In esoteric Taoism, it refers to the process of mixing by which the immortal spirit body is cultivated.
ZHUANG ZHOU [4th century BCE] – One of the greatest Taoists and most famous philosophers of China, a follower of Lao Tzu, who lived hundreds of years after the first master.
CHURCH OF WORLD MESSIANITY – The name given in English to the Japanese church, Sekai Kyusei Kyo, sometimes referred to as the Healing Church because of their healing practice of Johrei.
COMPARATIVE MEDITATION – A term coined by the author for the courses (at university level and outside) where many mediation techniques are taught so the student can determine which is best for him, individually.
DARSHAN – In India it is felt that being in the presence of a saint, or holy object, brings great benefit, and this proximity is known as darshan.
DEVA – A god or aspect of divinity. Indians usually have an Ishta Devata, or aspect of the Supreme that they worship.
DEVI – Goddess. Many in India worship God in the aspect of Divine Mother.
DHARMAKARA – The name of Amida (Buddha of Infinite Light) aeons ago before he became a Buddha, at the time he took his 48 great vows.
DHARANI – The same as a Mantra, a formula or incantation of great power, referred to in Buddhism.
DHYANA – The Sanskrit word for meditation.
DUMO HEAT – The essence of Tibetan Buddhist practice, and also called the essence of “magic play,” this great inner heat is cultivated by meditation practices. The Dumo is the same as Tummo in Chinese and, in China, it refers to the great meridian channel running down the front of the body.
ENERGY SEA – Around the tan t’ien (tanden in Japanese), the spot two inches below the navel, there is believed to be a great reservoir of intrinsic energy, the energy sea where the Chi is stored. It is from here that adepts in karate and aikido, bring the energy with a great shout when they smash their fists through blocks of wood or perform similar stunts.
ETHERIC BODY – One of the sheaths referred to that is not the gross physical body. Some feel it is synonymous with the astral body. There is no exact science for such terms.
FASTING MIND – Zhuang Zhou, the Chinese Philosopher (like his teacher, Lao Tzu) suggested dropping things from the mind, not accumulating, thus returning to simplicity and spontaneity. This would be the Fasting Mind. Buddhists might use the term differently, referring to the jettisoning of greed, anger and delusion – the true fasting.
FIXATION – Anchoring the mind to one point in the body (usually the tip of the nose or spot two inches below the navel), as in Chih-kuan practice.
GATE, GATE – The final words of the great Heart Sutra (Hridaya) are felt to be an unsurpassed Mantra, and they are Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Godhi Svaha. Translations have been made, but they are unimportant, as there is really no translation for a Mantra.
GAUTAMA BUDDHA [circa 563 BCE to 483 BCE] – Siddhartha Gautama was the name of a prince of the Sakyas in India. He renounced his princehood and became a wandering mendicant, reaching the great enlightenment that made him the Buddha, the Awakened One.
GAYATRI – The name given to the sacred Mantra of the Vedas (original and most holy of Indian scriptures). High caste Brahmins use this Mantra at the investure of the Sacred Thread in the ceremony at puberty, but it is felt to be the one Mantra suitable for all Hindus. Gayatri has reference to the divinity behind the sun, much like Savitri.
GOHONZON – Mighty mysterious power of the universe as taught in Nichiren Buddhism of Japan (and Soka Gakkai as well). This has to do with a Mandala (map of the universe), and it is part of a mystic doctrine proclaimed by Nichiren Buddhism.
GOLDEN FLOWER – The embryo of the immortal spirit body as nurtured in Chinese esoteric Taoist practices. It is not the light that is circulated, as believed by some, but that which is nourished by the circulation of the light. The Secret of the Golden Flower is a famous book written about it.
GREAT CIRCLE MEDITATION – Name given by the author to the first part of the Reverse Meditative Breathings, corresponding to the Macrocosmic Orbit.
GURU – Personal teacher in Indian (and Tibetan) tradition, referring to a realized master in most cases.
HABIT ENERGIES – In Sanskrit these are known as vasanas. They are the product of our habitual thinking and literally make us what we will be in the future.
HAKUIN EKAKU [1686-1769] – The great 17th and 18th century Zen master in Japan, sometimes known as Hakuin Zenji. One of the two most influential Zen teachers in Japanese history, the other being Dogen Zenji.
HAMSA – In Indian Mythology, Hamsa is the Divine Swan. These two syllables are used, together, as a Mantra in India. It is interesting that the word Hamsa (perhaps spelled differently) is found as far away as the Sudan in Africa.
HANNYA HARAMITA SHIN GYO – A Chinese transliteration of the Indian name, Prajnaparamita, meaning, literally The Great Perfection of Wisdom. The great Heart Sutra begins with the expression Maka Hanya Haramita Shin Gyo.
HARE KRISHNA – An Indian cult that began several hundred years ago, when an Indian sage (Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) had revealed to him the great Mantra that goes: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare – Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
HATHA YOGA – Literally Sun Moon Yoga, ha referring to the right eye, or sun, and tha to the left eye, or moon. Thought of as the Yoga of Physical Perfection, it is complete by itself, or the Asanas (postures) and other practices can be thought of as preliminaries in Raja Yoga and Tantra.
HEART-FIRE – The physical heart is the great yang (positive) in the body and corresponds to the sun in the heavens. The yang Chi (energy from the heart level) is to be brought down to the spot two inches below the navel, or to the soles of the feet, in T’ai Chi practice for healing purposes. The Chi of the great yang, the heart, is thus the heart-fire. Though he was not a Taoist, Hakuin Zenji in his writings stressed the efficacy of bringing the heart-fire down.
HEART SUTRA – By heart is meant essence or gist. This short sutra has the essence of the over 1700 sutras (scriptures) called Prajnaparamita in Mahayana Buddhism.
HERPES SIMPLEX – A physical disorder that may afflict any part of the body, resulting in unpleasant blisters and discharge. It is often brought on by exposure to sunshine. From the author’s point of view, this illustrates the heat element precipitating purification.
HOLISTIC – (sometimes spelled wholistic) The belief that man’s body, mind and spirit are one. Holistic medicine attempts to treat physical ills through this knowledge, not by just catering to physical symptoms. Many holistic institutes are springing up throughout the country; this is undoubtedly one direction the healing arts of the future will go.
HOUSEHOLDER – In India, where some renounce the world, there is also the majority that tends to marry, have children and lead a worldly life. Actually, Indian scriptural teaching allows for both types of status in the course of a person’s life, but such instructions are rarely followed in modern times. The worldly person, who has a somewhat different and less stringent path to follow than the renunciate, is called a householder.
HRIDAYA – Means spiritual heart in Sanskrit and is the true name of the Buddhist Heart Sutra.
I CHING – The ancient Chinese Book of Changes, which has influenced the whole growth of Chinese civilization, brings together the principles of Taoism and Confucianism. The hexagrams in the book are often used for divination, first through the agency of yarrow stalks, and today by means of Chinese coins. The teaching of the I Ching emphasizes the cyclical principle of yin-yang philosophy, as opposed to ordinary causation. “There is a time to sow and a time to reap” would be a good example of this principle. There have been many famous commentaries on the I Ching (called Wings), the best-known coming from the Duke of Zhou and the sage Confucius.
IDA, PINGALA – The major nadis, or nerves, which run down the right and left sides of the body (crisscrossing) in Indian teaching. In the average man, the Prana (or Chi) flows through these nadis – though in the enlightened one, the Prana goes up the central channel bringing great bliss.
INKA – Zen traces its history back to the Buddha himself, a 2500 year lineage in which masters who gave approval to enlightened disciples (some never had an enlightened disciple!) and bestowed written approval called inka on the fortunate ones, who were then free to teach and carry on the line of their master.
IMMORTAL SPIRIT BODY – Immortality while retaining the same individuality was the goal of esoteric Taoism. To reach this objective, practices were said to nourish an embryo (Golden Flower) that would mature as the Immortal Spirit Body, a spiritual being within the physical body.
INTRINSIC ENERGY – This refers to the Prana or Chi. It is also sometimes known as Kundalini or Shakti. There is controversy as to whether this is exactly the same as Vital Force, but for the practical purposes of meditative practice, they can be considered the same.
JAPA – Repetition of a Mantra (name of God, or aspect of God), whether that repetition be oral, mental or written. Present-day teachers of India say that japa (remembrance of the name) is the best practice for this “degenerate” period of time known as the Kali Yuga.
JHANA – The Pali language word for meditation, corresponding to the Sanskrit dhyana.
JOHREI – The act of focusing the hand on parts of the physical body by one trained to do so in the Japanese Healing Church known as Sekai Kyusei Kyo. A piece of paper worn in a locket around the neck, with the word hikari, written on it by the religion’s founder (Meishu Sama) or his descendant, is the sacred focal point that gives power to the practice of Johrei. The word hikari means light in Japanese. Those receiving this Johrei often feel a strong heat, and the church reports many wonderful cures, though it emphasizes it is raising the spiritual vibration with Johrei and not attempting to heal. This is an extremely interesting and, the author believes, efficacious way to use the Chi (Prana) to raise the body heat and bring about purification.
KABIR [1440-1518] – A Sufi saint of the Middle Ages in India and a great poet who was expelled from the holy city of Benares (present-day Varanasi). Though his devotional poetry is pure Sufi in content (the Sufis are called the Mystic Arm of Islam), Kabir was initiated and taught by a great Hindu guru.
KALI – One name given to Divine Mother. The Ramakrishna Order, for instance, though part of Vedanta, worships Mother in many forms and under many names. Also known as goddess Kali.
KALI YUGA – The Iron Age. We are now in this supposedly degenerate age, the fourth Yuga in the incredibly long period of time known as kalpa, at the end of which the world is destroyed by flame, later to come back into being as the result of the unfulfilled desires expressed as habit energies (vasanas), which lie dormant for awhile and then spring to life again. Supposedly we in this yuga live a shorter time than did those in previous divisions (yugas) of this kalpa.
KARMA – Literally action. Every action must have a reaction. These reactions are the fruits of karma and are the fates of individuals, brought about by their own actions. “As you sow, so shall you reap.”
KEISAKU – The long stick carried by the monks who are patrolling the aisles during Zen Buddhist meditation (zazen). They are usually empowered to use the sticks, not as punishment, but to wake up the one feeling the blows.
KENSHO – Literally to see the Buddha nature. In the West we hear much of Satori, the enlightenment experience, but Japanese Zen speaks more of kensho which may be the result of many Satoris. To “rest in our own true nature” might roughly have the same meaning.
KOAN – The Japanese word for the Chinese gong’an, literally a “case,” that is, reference to an historical exchange, usually between master and disciple. The key part of such exchange forms an enigmatic problem on which many Zen monks (particularly those in Rinzai Zen) ponder. Famous are such koans as “If all things return to the One, to what does the One return?” The monk is expected to answer the koan to the satisfaction of his master, and that does not necessarily mean an oral answer. Basically a koan is a problem for meditation, the purpose of which is to encourage one-pointedness of mind.
KRISHNA – In India, Krishna is worshipped as an avatar (incarnation in the body) of the god Vishnu. Some worship Krishna himself as the Supreme. Most people are familiar with the pictures of the beautiful boy Krishna playing his flute.
KRISHNAMURTI [1895-1986] – Born in India but raised in Europe by the Theosophical Society. Krishnamurti, a true spiritual iconoclast, shook (through his lectures and writings) many people out of their accustomed way of thinking.
KUAN – Literally a view. Though the word kuan has many meanings in Chinese, here it refers to the second part of the Chih-kuan meditation. In Sanskrit this is Samatha-Samapatti, referring to the two-part practice of 1.) concentrating intently on a spot in the body (usually the tip of the nose or the place two inches below the navel); and 2.) introspecting the thoughts as they come. From a philosophic point of view there is a great deal more to kuan, but for meditation purposes, it is this introspection (watching) of the thoughts – which usually causes them to disappear so that one can return to the Chih part (the fixation) of the meditation.
KUNDALINI – Serpent in Indian languages. It is said that there is a “sleeping serpent” of energy coiled at the base of the spine. In the advanced Yogi, this serpent uncoils and begins an ascent up the body, opening the power of the various psychic centers as it goes. The kundalini is this latent power that can be aroused, and it has a good deal to do with sexual energy, as well as furnishing the power to progress toward enlightenment (liberation).
LEFT-HAND TANTRA – The Tantras are very old scriptures of India. When they were introduced into Tibet, the Tantric beliefs combined with the Buddhism of the region to form the religion of Tantric Buddhism quite different from the tantric faith of Northern India. There is an esoteric teaching in Tantric Buddhism that has to do with sexual activity (not true intercourse) as a means to enlightenment, performed under the guidance of a Lama (priest). This is a practice of the Left-Hand Tantra and is much misunderstood; most writers believe it stands for licentiousness. Therefore, the “left-hand” appellation is sometimes thought of as a term of derision.
LIKHITA JAPA – Repeating a Mantra by writing it (usually in a pattern) rather than uttering it.
LINJI [died 866] – The Chinese name of the great Zen master now known as Rinzai in Japan. It is the Rinzai school that primarily uses the koan practice.
LOTUS – Here it refers to the Lotus position, the way of cross-legged sitting in which the two feet are pulled up on the opposite thighs, with the soles of the feet facing upward.
HALF-LOTUS – The sitting posture in which only one leg is pulled up on the opposite thigh.
LOTUS SUTRA – A great scripture of Buddhism. Coming from India, it became popular in China and is felt to be the key scripture by the Nichiren and Soka Gakkai people of Japan. It is studied and honored by all Buddhists.
MACROCOSMIC ORBIT – The path from the top of the head down to the spot below the navel, then through the legs and up the spine to the top of the head, as performed in The Great Circle Meditation.
MAKYO – Illusory visions seen during Zen meditation practice.
MALA – A string of 108 beads used by Hindus as they perform japa. Usually a devotee promises to repeat the name so many times during practice each day, and fingering the mala helps him keep count. There are rules as to how it is to be used.
MANASIKA JAPA – Japa is repetition of a Mantra, and Manasika Japa is performing the repetition mentally, making no sound. The popular T.M. is really Manasika Japa.
MANDALA – A “map of the universe.” Tibetans make many mandalas, some very beautiful, and usually they have the figure of the celestial Buddha (Vairocana Buddha), not the historical Buddha, in the center.
MANTRA – A word or series of words of great power, revealed to an Indian sage during periods of austerity. The Mantra is a Name of God, or an aspect of God; it is not a sound made up by someone. Other countries also use Mantras (Om Mani Padme Hum being the great Tibetan Mantra), though they do not always call the sacred formula by the name Mantra.
MILAREPA [circa 1040 – circa 1023] – Perhaps the greatest Tibetan Yogi, whose many spiritual poems are justly famous. He was an extreme ascetic in the latter part of his life, coming to Buddhism after having practiced sorcery to commit murder as a youth.
MUSHIN – Mu means negative, and shin means mind, so this is translated as “no mind.” It refers to the active mind not occupied with conceptual thinking, which corresponds to Zhuang Zhou’s fasting mind.
NADA – In Indian languages, this means sound. Nada Yoga is an esoteric practice of Sound Yoga. Actually, there is an involved metaphysics of sound in Indian philosophy.
NADIS – Unsatisfactorily translated as nerves or nerve channels. There are numerous nadis in the body, and the Yogi often visualizes them around a psychic center (chakra). The main ones, ida and pingala, carry the Prana and flow of breath for the average person; the advanced Yogi uses the thin central channel, the sushumna, as well. These are all nadis, and in Hatha Yoga there are elaborate means of purifying them.
NAMU AMIDA BUTSU – Called Nembutsu, and it is like a Mantra. The Shin Buddhists of Japan repeat this formula endlessly, until it becomes part of them. The Nembutsu literally translates as “Hail to the Buddha of Infinite Light,” and sincere repetition supposedly assures a devotee of being taken to the Pure Land, the Western Paradise, where conditions will be ideal for practice and attaining Nirvana.
NAMU MYOHO RENGE KYO – A formula (like a Mantra) of great power, taken from the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Buddhism followers use its repetition as their main practice, and many non-Buddhist religions in Japan also repeat this formula.
NEI KUNG – A secret meditation from China, performed while lying flat on the back. It has great healing power.
NEMBUTSU – The Namu Amida Butsu explained above, a formula of great power.
NICHIREN [1222-1282] – A controversial Japanese Buddhist priest, very bitter against foreigners and foreign imports. He had a running battle with Zen, the Japanese government, etc. There are many branches of Nichiren Buddhism in Japan, and the rapidly growing Soka Gakkai religion might be thought of as one of them.
NIRVANA – Literally means extinction in Indian languages, but whether this is an actual blotting out (as thought by some primitive Buddhists), as extinction of the ego, or some other meaning, is not known. The Buddha did not define Nirvana, but certainly it meant a status far beyond individuality, and it represents the ultimate goal of Buddhism. It was to be experienced rather than talked about.
NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH – The Buddha laid out a path of righteousness for those active in the world, including Right Livelihood and Right Concentration (meditation), with the seventh of the eight steps being Right Mindfulness, practiced in the great Satipatthana meditation.
OM (also written as AUM) – Known as the pranava in India, this is supposedly the primordial sound, the “word” from which all creation derives. It is much meditated on in India, but only a renunciate, not a worldly person, should do japa (repetition) of this sacred sound, as it tends to lead one away from worldly life.
OM MANI PADME HUM – A sacred Mantra of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. The words mean “The Gem in the Lotus,” but the power of the Mantra goes far beyond semantic meanings.
ONE-POINTEDNESS – When the mind is occupied by only a single thought, steady in its absorption into that thought.
ORIGINAL FACE – A term used in Zen Buddhism, meaning your “true self,” or the essence of what you are far beyond individual personality. It has a universal connotation.
PATANJALI [circa 2nd – 4th century BCE] – Often called the Father of Yoga. He did not invent it but codified and explained it in the great eight-part Raja Yoga, on which he expounded in his Yoga Sutras.
PRAJNA – A term used in Buddhism, where Prajna refers to the innate wisdom that has nothing to do with learning. Prajnaparamita would then be the “perfection of wisdom.” In Yoga the steps to perfection end with Samadhi, the super consciousness state, but in Buddhism the three steps are: conduct (sila), concentration or meditation (Samadhi), and wisdom (Prajna), thus going one step beyond Yoga. The concept of Prajna wisdom is very important in Zen practice.
PRANA – All the energy and force of the universe is manifested in the individual as intrinsic energy. Kundalini and Shakti are manifestations of this universal energy. Chi is the Chinese name for Prana.
PRANAYAMA – One of the preliminary (outer) disciplines practiced in the eight-step Raja Yoga. This is really the development of the Prana through various breathing exercises. It is an involved art and usually mastered by Hatha Yoga adepts.
PUJA – A ceremony of dedication or devotion in India.
PURE LAND – Another name for the Western Paradise, to which the faithful believer in the Amitabha Cult (Amida in Japan) will be taken by the Buddha of Infinite Light. More intellectual Buddhists, such as Zennists, believe the Pure Land is nothing else than the straightforward (or pure) Mind.
RA – A seed syllable (bija) having to do with the digestive fire and the psychic center associated with that part of the body. Used in Mantras such as Ram, short for Rama, in India. It is interesting that it was also the name of the sun god in Egyptian mythology, lending credence to its power as a fire aspect.
RAJA YOGA – The kingly Yoga, Patanjali’s great creation. It has eight steps: the first two, Yama and Niyama, have to do with conduct and attitude. The next three are outer practices, that of posture (Asana), breathing exercises (Pranayama), and withdrawal of the senses from the field of the senses (Pratyahara). Finally, we have concentration (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana) and Samadhi (culmination of deep meditation in the unshakable super conscious state). According to Patanjali, those who simply practice meditation, without the preliminaries, are doomed to disappointment.
RAMA – One of the greatest names in Indian Mythology, Rama (the hero of the great epic, The Ramayana) was said to be an avatar of Lord Vishnu, a divine incarnation here on earth. The name Rama is often repeated in japa practice, and then it becomes Ram, one of the most popular Mantras in India.
RAMAKRISHNA [1836-1886] – This renowned Hindu mystic and teacher of Vedanta is often referred to as one of the three great pillars of India, occurring at intervals of a thousand years (Buddha, Shankara and Ramakrishna). This great teacher’s disciple, Vivekananda, was largely responsible for popularizing Yoga in the West, and other disciples have spread Ramakrishna’s teaching throughout the world. There are many “maths” or ashrams of Ramakrishna in the world today.
RAMANUJA [1017-1137] – One of the greatest teachers of India, famed in the Middle Ages, he was the guru of the poet Kabir, whom he initiated with the Mantra Ram.
RENUNCIATE – One who renounces the world to follow austere spiritual practice. Such a one is usually called a sannyasin in India, though, actually, a sannyasin is one who has been initiated into the Order of Sannyasa. Swami is another term that is often mistakenly applied to a renunciate. Such a one is not supposed to touch money, have possessions, etc. and is greatly respected, making it easy for him to live on alms.
REPS, PAUL [1895-1990] – A respected American artist, poet and writer, whose book Zen Flesh Zen Bones, written in collaboration with the Zen monk Nyogen Senzaki, has become a classic in English.
RISHI (or RSHI) – A sage, usually out of India’s history. Such holy men, surprisingly, often were married and had a family. All true Mantras came through such sages.
RINZAI – The Japanese name for the great Chinese Zen master, Linji. His own master was Huang Po, and he founded one of the five great divisions of Zen, only two of which flourish today in Japan.
RINZAI ZEN – The Zen Buddhist sect in Japan that makes strong use of koan practice; one of two sects that survive from the original five.
RAMANA MAHARSHI [1879-1950] – A great sage of modern India.
SADHAKA – One who follows a spiritual practice or sadhana. The term saddhu is related but implies single-minded commitment.
SAMADHI – When deep meditation becomes unshakable, it has reached Samadhi, the super conscious state. In Buddhism, Samadhi is also used in the sense of an enlightened state in which an adept continues through the whole day, even while in activity.
SAMSKARA – Literally tendencies, though the word samskara has other meanings. When habit energies go on for a long while, they may become tendencies (samskaras) that carry over into subsequent lives.
SHANKARA [circa early 8th century] – One of the greatest philosophers and holy men in India, called Shankaracharya as a term of respect, acharya meaning great master. A great advocate of Non-Dual Vedanta, he formed four outposts (north, south, east and west) from which pope-like teachers presided and went out to cater to spiritual needs. His writings and commentaries are the most famous in India, and yet he died a very young man.
SATORI – “Sudden enlightenment experience” in Zen, rather than a gradually developing state. It is taken from the Japanese verb Satoru, meaning to realize.
SATIPATTHANA – Literally the Way of Mindfulness, the Buddha’s great meditation practice utilizing four Ways of Mindfulness.
SEKAI KYUSEI KYO – The name of a Japanese religion with headquarters in Atami, Japan. Sometimes known as The Healing Church, it makes great use of the healing practice called Johrei. In the United States it is called The Church of World Messianity.
SENNIN – Literally mountain hermit. There were legendary sennin in Japan, and apparently, Hakuin Zenji met and was instructed by one named Hakuyu, who was reputed to be several hundred years old.
SEVEN FACTORS OF ENLIGHTENMENT – The seven ingredients that the Buddha felt were necessary for enlightenment, “mindfulness” being the first of these.
SHAKTI – The female side or consort of Lord Shiva. Shiva is considered the immutable Reality, which becomes Shakti, power-consciousness-energy when he turns active and manifests as Universe. Shakti is worshipped by Tantrics, so in a sense, this is energy worship. Prana and Chi ultimately have the same meaning as Shakti, without having the mythology attached to them.
SHAKYA – The tribe or country in which Gautama Buddha was born. He was a prince of the Shakyas, destined to be their king until he left to become a wandering mendicant. As a result, the Buddha is often called Shakyamuni, muni meaning “a sage who teaches in silence.”
SHASTRA – A doctrine, as in Mantra Sastra, or the Doctrine of Mantra Use.
SHIN – The word has many meanings in Chinese, often associated with “truth” or “heart.” However, here it refers to the various sects of Amida Buddhism in Japan, including the best known, Jodo Shinshu.
SHINGON – Perhaps the first sect of Buddhism to arrive in Japan, it is derived from Tibetan practice and is often referred to as Esoteric Buddhism. The pageantry and ceremony of Shingon appealed to nobility in Japan, and it was they, not the common people, who practiced Shingon. This sect still continues in Japan, but it is not as popular as it was in earlier days.
SHINSHU – A Japanese person who practices a form of Buddhism is called shu (as in Zen-shu), and Shinshu would be one practicing Shin Buddhism. However, the term is also used in respect to the Jodo Shinshu sect of Amida.
SHINTO – Not really a religion, Shinto (reverence for nature) is a cultural tradition followed by all Japanese, of whatever denomination. Traditionally Japanese males make a pilgrimage to Ise, most holy of Shinto shrines. There are innumerable Shinto gods, and these were brought into the Buddhist pantheon when Buddhism began to grow popular in Japan. Shinto is really an extraordinary way of some beauty and well worth studying by itself.
SHIVA – The “destroyer” aspect of the trio of gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. However, some in India also worship Shiva as the sole ultimate Divinity or Reality. Such worshippers are called Shaivites.
SUNYATA – (pronounced Shunyata) The Buddhist term for Void or Emptiness, though this emptiness does not imply lack of anything – it contains all manifestations or transformations within it. The empty part means “empty of enduring Self-Nature.” The study of Sunyata is absolutely essential for anyone who would understand Buddhism, particularly Mahayana (or “greater vehicle”) Buddhism.
SIDDHI – The great power attained by advanced Yogis, seemingly supernatural to those who do not understand their basis.
SO’HAM – A famous Mantra that means “That I Am.” In this book it is used in the practice coordinating the Mantra with the breath, and this practice is reputed to bring siddhis (powers) to those who use it faithfully.
SOKA GAKKAI – A recently arisen sect of Buddhism that follows many of the teachings of Nichiren. Soka Gakkai has a strong political arm and is thought not to be true Buddhism by many scholars in and of Japan.
SOUL TRAVEL – Some groups teach this form of astral travel that is highly dangerous.
SUFI – Though the Sufis (literally “wool-clad”) are known as the mystics of Islam, they claim Sufism is a substratum of all religions and spiritual practices. The great Sufi poet Rumi is well-known.
SUSHUMNA – The thin thread-like channel that goes up the center of the body, not open to the average man, but available to the adept, and responsible for great Bliss as the Prana ascends in the body. One of the nadis.
SUTRA – In Buddhism, a sutra is a teaching spoken personally by the Buddha. However, other sutras in India (not Buddhist) are usually made up of groups of succinct aphorisms.
SWAMI RAMDAS [1884-1963] – One of the most beloved of modern Indian saints, known for his devotion to Ram (aspect of God).
T’AI CHI CHIH – A series of twenty separate movements that strongly circulates the Chi. Based on ancient principles, it was developed by the author and first taught in 1974.
T’AI CHI CH’UAN – First of the martial arts, formerly called shadow-boxing. Over a thousand years old in China, such disciplines as Karate and Aikido are thought to be derived from it. The classical form is a long “dance” of 108 movements, a true moving meditation.
T’AI CHI GIK – A legendary form of self-defense, in which the practitioner could supposedly paralyze an adversary by touching him relative to the time of day, season of the year, etc. (each indicating where the Chi would be flowing most strongly in the body). It is said that the form was legally abolished because of injuries and fatalities occurring from its practice. The author believes he met the last, or one of the last, of its masters in Taiwan some years ago.
T’AI CHI – Supreme Ultimate; a synonym of Tao.
TAN T’lEN – (pronounced dantienne) The spot two inches below the navel, the “elixir field” or “sea of Chi.”
TANTRIC BUDDHISM – Tibetan Buddhism, representing a combination of Tantric teachings (of North India) and Mahayana Buddhism.
TANTRICS – Followers of the Tantric faith of India. Sometimes Tantric Buddhists are also called Tantriks.
TANDEN – The Japanese word for tan t’ien, the spot below the navel.
TAO – Chinese word for Reality, seen by Chinese sages as a “moving force,” a flowing stream with which we should accord, often called Supreme Ultimate. The scholar, Wen-Shan Huang, has likened Tao to the Western concept of Mana. Taoism is a philosophy that became a religion – based on the concept of the all-embracing Tao.
TATHAGATA – A term the Buddha used to refer to himself, literally meaning “He who has thus come” or “he who has thus gone.” Tathagata and Buddha are interchangeable.
TOKUSAN – Japanese pronunciation of a famous Chinese Zen master’s name, Deshan Xuanjian.
TOXIN – The Healing Church, Sekai Kyusei Kyo, uses this word to describe the impurities that are physical in nature but have spiritual derivation. The purpose of Johrei practice is to purify the body of these toxins, accumulated for long periods of time.
TUMMO – (pronounced dumo) The major front meridian channel. It is important in acupuncture and in such practices as T’ai Chi Chih.
TURIYA STATE – The Fourth State of Consciousness that underlies the ordinary waking, sleeping and dream states. While these latter three are constantly changing, the Reality, or Turiya state, is unchanging. When deep meditation goes beyond thought, the meditator has entered the Turiya state.
UDDIYANA BANDHA – An abdominal lock employed in Hatha Yoga.
VAIKHARI JAPA – Oral repetition of a Mantra, usually performed while holding the string of 108 beads known as a mala.
VASANA – Habit energy. When we repeat a thought or action so often it mentally becomes a compelling force, it is a vasana.
VIPASSANA – Literally insight. In Buddhism, there are short (ten days or two weeks) intensive meditation retreats, which often bring about an “insight experience,” almost a minor Satori. However, often the meditator is not ready for the forced experience and it fades. The Burmese Method taught in Burma, India, and Ceylon refers to Vipassana practice.
VISHNU – One of the trilogy of main Indian gods, Vishnu represents the Sustaining Force (Brahma is the Creator and Shiva the Destroyer). Some in India worship Vishnu as the sole divinity, however.
VITAL FORCE – The Chi or Prana.
VRITTI – The thought of behavior pattern in the brain made by repetitive thought or reaction, according to Indian belief. Each idea supposedly makes a sound, which creates the groove known as vritti (explaining memory). When a vritti is continually being made, through repetition, it may ripen into a vasana or habit energy.
WESTERN PARADISE – The Pure Land to which sincere believers in Amida Buddha go.
YAHOO – A sound used by the Sufis, almost like a Mantra, supposedly to eventually result in illumination when properly uttered.
YIN-YANG – Juxtaposition of the negative and positive. All Chinese cosmology is based on the interplay of these two types of energy, and the moving meditations attain their great benefits through balancing of the circulated yin-yang energies. It is said by some scholars that the development of the computer was largely due to the yin-yang theory.
ZAZEN – The term for Zen sitting. While it is a posture for Zen meditation, Zen teachers insist one can be doing zazen while brushing the teeth or performing labor if the mind is properly controlled.
This article is published in Meditation for Healing.