Buddhist Terminology

Amida Nyorai 阿弥陀如来: 


Avalokiteśvara: the Goddess of Mercy,  the Bodhisattva in whom the compassion of all the Buddhas is to be found. She is known as Kannon (観音) in Japan.

Bodhisattva  菩薩 (bosatsu) lit. "enlightenment being:  A person who has achieved spiritual enlightenment but defers attaining Buddhahood until all sentient beings have been saved.

Cintāmaṇi (Nyoihōju, 如意宝珠 (Sanskrit Devanagari) : "Nyo" means one's wishes, "hōju" gem/jewel, hence "wish fulfilling gem." "Mani" also means jewel and there are serveral Mani Jewels to be found in Buddhsi scriptures. This particular one, the wish fulfilling gem, is particularly associated with the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara and Ksitigarbha.


Gohonden 御本尊: Main object of worship in a temple.

Golden Light (Suvarṇaprabhāsa) Sutra 金光明経 (Konkōmyōkyō): Translated from the Sanskrit into Chinese by Dharmakṣema. Chapter six of this sutra was of great appeal to Emperor Temmu and subsequent emperors as it seemed to promise protection for states and their leaders:-"the Four Deva Kings, the Guardians of the World, promise with all their numberless followers (demons and spirits) to protect the kings (together with their families and countries), who attentively listen to this sutra and respectfully make offerings, receiving and keeping this holy text." (Hall, p393). It also has extensive sections on Sarasvati and Lakshmi.

Golden Light of the Most Victorious Kings Sutra  金光明最勝王経 (konkōmyō-saishōō-kyō): An eight century Japanse annotation on the Golden Light Sutra

Gongen 権現: also referred to as gonge (権化) and kegen (化現). 

Godaison 五大尊: Another way of referring to the five Myōō

Jōdo-shū 浄土宗: lit. "Pure Land School." Also known as Jōdo Buddhism, is a branch of Pure Land Buddhism derived from the teachings of the Japanese ex-Tendai monk Hōnen. It was established in 1175 and is the most widely practiced branch of Buddhism in Japan, along with Jōdo Shinshū. (Wikipedia)

Jūni-ten  十二天: The Twelve Guardian Deities (Deva) found in temples. In the following list the Sanskrit name comes first followed by the Japanese romaji and kanji equivalents.

Agni:         Katen 火天

Brahma:   Bonten 梵天

Chandra:  Gatten 月天

Indra:        Taishakuten 帝釈天

Ishana:      Ishanaten 伊舎那天

Kubera:    Tanmonten 多聞天

Nirrti:        Rasetsuten 羅刹天

Privthi:     Chiten  地天

Surya:       Nitten 日天

Varuna:    Suiten  水天

Vayu:        Futen  風天

Yama:       Emmaten 焔摩天

Ksitigarbha: In Japanese  Jizō (地蔵). He is best known for his vow to take responsibility for the instruction of all beings in the six worlds between the death of the historic Buddha and the rise of Maitreya, the Buddha yet to come. He also vowed not to achieve Buddhahood until all hells have been emptied.

Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra  (lit. "Large Perfection of Wisdom Sutra") 大般若波羅蜜多経  (Daihan'nyaharamitta-kyō). 

An encyclopedic collection of Prajñāpāramitā texts, usually attributed to Nāgārjuna, translated into Chinese by Xuanzang and his assistants. Alternatively, this name refers to the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, meaning 25,000-line Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. (from Wikipedia)

Maitreya: The Buddha who is yet to come.

Myōō 明王: Samskrit Vidyārāja. Literal meaning is Wisdom King, but often translated "Brightness King", "Knowledge King", "Radiance King," among others. There are five Wisdom Kings:

Aizen-Myōō  愛染明王 (Sanskrit Rāgarāja

Daiitoku Myō-ō

Fudō-Myōō 不動明王 (Sanskrit Arya Acala/ Acalanātha)

Gozanze Myō-ō

Gundari Myō-ō

Nyorai  如来: Sanskrit Tathāgata. Someone who has worked their way towards perfect understanding, as have all  Buddhas before them.

Shitennō 四天王: In Buddhism the Four Heavenly Kings tasked with protecting the Buddhist Law (the Dharma) and each is assigned to one of the four cardinal directions. They are:

    1) Protector of the north, Vaiśravaṇa, 多聞天 (Tamon-ten)/毘沙門天 (Bishamon-ten)

   2)Protector of the south,Virūḍhaka,   増長天 (Zōjō-ten)

    3) Protector of the east, Dhṛtarāṣṭra,   持国天 (Jikoku-ten)

    4) Protector of the west, Virūpākṣa,    広目天 (Kōmoku-ten)

Yakushi 薬師: Sanskrit Bhaiṣajyaguru. Usually referred to as Yakushi Nyorai (薬師如来), The Buddha of Healing and Medicine.

Zaō Gongen 蔵王権現also known as Kongō Zaō Gongen (金剛蔵王権現) and Kongō Zaō Bosatsu (金剛蔵王菩薩). Is the main object of worship at the Kinpu Senji (金峯山寺) Temple in Yoshino, Nara-ken, the head temple of a Shugendō sect. Zaō Gongen is a purely Japanese deity.


© Rod Lucas 2016-2020

All text and photos by Lucas unless otherwise stated