Any established field of human thought, belief, or endeavor has a list of specialized terms and concepts that convey specific meaning within that field. Buddhism, too, has developed its own vocabulary to convey in precise form its unique ideas, concepts, and beliefs. The earliest Buddhist terms were set down in writing in the Indic languages of Sanskrit and Pali, and many more were formulated later, as Buddhism spread to China and Japan. Buddhism has more recently taken its place as a global religion, and much effort has been made to translate those terms into other languages.
It is our conviction that Buddhist study should not merely be the province of academic specialists, but an integral part of a living religion; it should provide a foundation for the faith and practice of Buddhists, and impart to anyone interested an understanding of the humane principles of Buddhist philosophy. For this reason, we have for some time adhered to an editorial policy of translating Buddhist terms into English wherever possible, so that the concepts they express may be more readily assimilated and applied by English-speaking students of Buddhism. The reader will therefore find that the majority of Buddhist term entries in this dictionary are given in English.
There are, however, a few groups of exceptions. The first are those words of Indic origin, such as karma, nirvana, or bodhisattva, which have no precise English equivalents. Some of these words have already become a part of the English language, and appear in standard English dictionaries. Many more of these terms, even though used frequently in Buddhist scriptures, have yet to be assimilated into English. Another group comprises Japanese terms and expressions that were not translated for lack of good English equivalents and because of their familiarity to practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. These include such terms as daimoku, gongyō, shōju, and shakubuku, which have been listed as they are, in Japanese pronunciation.
All the entry items appear in roman type, except for the titles of Buddhist documents other than sutras, such as treatises and commentaries, which are italicized throughout. Terms in a language other than English (those not found in a standard English dictionary) are italicized in the body of a definition. Moreover, most are identified as Sanskrit (Skt), Pali, or Japanese (Jpn) in parentheses, but when the language is evident in the context, it is not explicitly indicated. How to locate specific entries is explained later in this Guide.
The names of actual historical figures are given in the language of their country of origin, except in cases where they have moved from one country to another and their original names are not known, or where they have become so closely identified with their adopted country that their original names are rarely used (e.g., Ganjin). The names of historical figures in India are generally given in their Sanskrit, rather than Pali, form. Chinese names are romanized according to the Wade-Giles system, with the alternate pinyin romanization given in parentheses following the name entry. Japanese and Chinese personal names appear with the family name first and the given name second, except for modern Japanese persons, in which case the given name comes first.
Most of the names of the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, deities, and mythical personages are translated into English, following the example of the Central Asian monk Kumārajīva (344–413) who, when translating Sanskrit Buddhist sutras into Chinese, rendered the meaning of such names into Chinese. For instance, a Buddha named Prabhūtaratna appears as the Buddha Many Treasures, and the bodhisattva Sadāparibhūta, as the bodhisattva Never Disparaging. Sanskrit equivalents, where known, appear in parentheses following a name entry. The names of most Buddhist schools are also rendered in English. In the cases of proper names where the meaning of the Chinese original is unclear, or where the Sanskrit original is unknown, the name is presented in romanized Japanese (e.g., the kings Sen’yo and Dammira). Persons with the same name in romanized form are listed as separate definitions within the same entry.
Titles of sutras, treatises, commentaries, and other works are given mostly in English. Except for those of sutras, titles of works are italicized (e.g., Great Concentration and Insight). Sanskrit and Chinese equivalents, where applicable, appear in parentheses following a title entry. The titles of sutras that retain their Sanskrit names, such as the Susiddhikara Sutra, appear in romanized Sanskrit. Longer titles of works may appear in shortened form in the body of a definition.
Names of historical places are in the language of the country where they are located. Names of places appearing only in the sutras or other writings are given either in Sanskrit (e.g., Jambudvīpa, Mount Sumeru) or in English (Heat-Free Lake, Snow Mountains).
Sanskrit and Pali words are romanized according to pronunciation, with macrons indicating long vowels; the elaborate diacritical marks required by strict Indology are not used in the body of the dictionary itself. For reference, readers may consult the list of Sanskrit and Pali Words (Appendix A), which shows all diacritical marks.
Chinese words, with a few exceptions, are romanized according to the traditional Wade-Giles system. The newer pinyin system equivalents, designated by the letters PY, appear in parentheses following Chinese name or place entries. Readers may also refer to the list of Chinese Proper Names (Appendix B), which gives the pinyin equivalents. Tibetan personal names are romanized according to pronunciation.
Japanese words are romanized according to the modified Hepburn system. The Japanese syllable ending “n” when it appears before b, m, or p is rendered m, as it is pronounced (e.g., sambō [three treasures], hommon [essential teaching], jūjō-kampō [ten meditations] ), except when separated from these letters by a hyphen (Jōken-bō). Long vowels are indicated by macrons on all words, with the exception of well-known place names (Kyoto, Tokyo) and a few frequently used Buddhist words (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Myoho-renge-kyo; though the components of these include macrons, as in myōhō, myō, hō, and kyō). In Japanese words and expressions, hyphens are sometimes used to set off syllables in order to highlight their meaning or pronunciation. In proper nouns, a hyphen appears before the ending terms kyō (sutra), ji (temple), shū (school), koku (country), etc. (e.g., Hoke-kyō, Tōdai-ji, Shingon-shū), except when they are inseparable in terms of pronunciation (Daijikkyō).
The Chinese or Japanese characters for each entry are given in brackets, and their reading in romanized Japanese appears in parentheses immediately following the entry word. In a few cases, for reasons of style or convention, the entry word and its accompanying Japanese form may differ slightly. For example, the entry “Ajātashatru” is followed by the character reading “Ajase-ō” (meaning “King Ajātashatru”; the Japanese ending “ō” in this case means “king”), because the title of king, by convention, usually appears together with the name in Chinese and Japanese texts.
Entry titles are listed in alphabetical order. If you know the exact wording of a particular entry, you can look it up directly. The alphabetization is letter by letter, not word by word.
Few Japanese terms appear as entries; if you know the Japanese for a particular name or term but are not sure about the English, please consult the list of Terms and Names in Japanese (Appendix J) to find how it is listed as an entry. Romanized Japanese equivalents of virtually all entries in the dictionary, as well as terms that appear in the body of the definitions, are listed in alphabetical order in that appendix, followed by Chinese characters in parentheses and the corresponding entry. For example:
Agon-gyō （阿含経）: Āgama sutras
gojū-no-sōtai （五重の相対）: fivefold comparison
Tendai （天台）: T’ien-t’ai
Similarly, if you know a Sanskrit or Pali term but cannot find it as an entry, you may refer to the list of Sanskrit and Pali Terms and Names (Appendix F). For example:
wish-granting jewel （如意宝珠）
Never Disparaging （常不軽菩薩）
Buddhist terms appearing without explanation in the body of a definition generally also are listed as independent entries, but are not highlighted in the text.
Names, places, and terms are listed exactly as they appear in The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin in almost all cases. In the few cases where they differ, a cross reference is included.
Ages of Chinese and Japanese individuals are given according to the traditional way of reckoning in these countries, in which a child is regarded as one year old at birth and a year is added to his or her age with the passing of each New Year’s Day.
Concerning dates, in pre-modern times, Japan and China recorded dates in terms of a lunar calendar. Thus, the date of Nichiren’s birth is the sixteenth day of the second lunar month of 1222, which corresponds to April 6, 1222, in the Gregorian, or solar, calendar.
References to specific chapters of the Lotus Sutra are based on the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, the twenty-eight-chapter Chinese translation by Kumārajīva. The quotations from the Lotus Sutra are based primarily on the English translation by Dr. Burton Watson (The Lotus Sutra: Columbia University Press, New York, 1993). In addition, in citing Nichiren’s words, we have used The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, published in 1999 by the Soka Gakkai. For the convenience of the reader, the numbers in parentheses following the quotations indicate the page numbers therein.
Certain entries serve both as brief explanations on general subjects and as cross references to the same subjects treated at greater length and in greater depth elsewhere.
Concerning denominations above one million, this dictionary uses the American system, i.e., 1,000 millions is a billion.
Regarding assignment of birth and death dates, nothing at all is specified for Shakyamuni’s contemporaries, since scholarly opinion is invariably widely divided.
In accordance with recent developments in American English usage, instead of the era identifiers b.c. (before Christ) and a.d. (anno Domini), the abbreviations b.c.e. (before the Common Era) and c.e. (Common Era) are employed in the dictionary.
List of Abbreviations
before the Common Era