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From The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen translated by Michael H. Kohn; © 1991 by Shambhala Publications, Inc. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc.,

Buddhist Glossary E - H

Eightfold Path

(Skt., ashtangika-marga [as­tangika-mārga]; Pali, atthangika-magga); the path leading to release from suffering (duh­kha), constituting the contents of the last of the four noble truths. It is one of the thirty-seven limbs of enlightenment (bodhipākshika­dharma) and encompasses all aspects of the threefold training (trishiksha). The eight parts of the path are (1) perfect view (Skt., sa­myag-dristhi; Pali, sammā-ditthi), i.e., the view based on understanding of the four noble truths and the nonindividuality of existence (anātman); more...

Eisai Zenji

also Myōan Eisai (Yōsai) or Senkō (Zenkō) Kokushi, 1141–1215; Japanese Zen master of the Ōryō lineage of Rinzai Zen, who was the first successfully to transmit the Zen tradition in Japan. Although his lineage did not last long, Eisai is considered the founder of the Japanese Zen tradition. He traveled twice (in 1168 and 1187) to China. During his second stay there, he received the seal of confirmation (inka­shōmei) from the Chinese master Hsü-an Huai-ch’ang (Jap., Kian Eshō) of the Ōryō lineage. On his return to Japan he founded the Shōfuku-ji near Hakata in Kyūshu, the first monastery in Japan in which Rinzai Zen was practiced. more...


See Shūnyatā


The word used to translate the Sanskrit term bodhi (lit., “awakened”) and the Japanese satori or kenshō. A person awakens to a nowness of emptiness, which he or she is—even as the entire universe is emptiness—and which alone en­ables him or her to comprehend the true nature of things. Since enlightenment is repeatedly mis­understood as an experience of light and experi­ences of light wrongly understood as enlighten­ment, the term awakening is preferable, since it more accurately conveys the experience. The emptiness experienced here is no nihilistic emp­tiness; rather it is something unperceivable, unthinkable, unfeelable, and endless beyond existence and nonexistence. Emptiness is no object that could be experienced by a subject, since the subject itself is dissolved in the emptiness.

Five Precepts

See Shīla.

Four Noble Truths

(Skt., ārya-satya; Pali, ariya-satta); these are the basis of the Buddhist teaching. The four noble truths are (1) the truth of suffering (duhkha); (2) the truth of the ori­gin (samudāya) of suffering; (3) the truth of the cessation (nirodha) of suffering; (4) the truth of the path that leads to the cessation of suf­fering.

The first truth says that all existence is charac­terized by suffering and does not bring satisfac­tion. Everything is suffering: birth, sickness, death; coming together with what one does not like; separating from what one does like; not obtaining what one desires; and the five aggregates (skandha) of attachment that constitute the personality. more...


(dgelugs-pa), Tib., roughly “school of the virtuous”; the last to be established of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Tsongkhapa. This doctrinal tra­dition, pursuant to that of the Kadampa, lays particular emphasis on the observation of mo­nastic rules and thorough study of authoritative texts. Principal among these is the literature on the stages of the path and the systematic works on the various Buddhist doctrinal views. Since the installation of the dalai la­mas as heads of state in the 17th century, the Gelugpas have held political leadership.

Green Tara

Green Tara is a female Buddha. In fact, she is the manifestation of the wisdom of all the Buddhas, and the goddess who accomplishes their enlightened activities. Her name means "Saviouress," and it is she who comes swiftly to protect all beings from fear.



Skt., “Small Vehicle”; originally a derogatory designation used by representatives of the Mahāyāna (“Great Vehicle”) for early Buddhism. The followers of Hīnayāna themselves usually refer to their teaching as the Theravāda (Teaching of the Elders), although strictly speaking, Theravāda was one of the schools within the Hīnayāna; it is, however, the only one still existing today. Hīnayāna is also referred to as Southern Buddhism, since it is prevalent chiefly in countries of southern Asia (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Kampuchea, Laos).

The Hīnayāna enumerates the traditions of eighteen schools that developed out of the original community; however, the texts make reference to many more. more...