Abbreviations: Skt = Sanskrit; Chin = Chinese; Kor = Korean; Jpn = Japanese; b. = born; d. = died; r. = reign; n.d. = no dates; c. = circa
absolute myō One of two aspects of the character myō in the title Myoho-renge-kyo, the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law. It means that the Lotus Sutra cannot be compared with any other teaching because it embodies the absolute principle that encompasses and integrates all other teachings; no teaching exists outside it, and thus none can be called superior or inferior to it. From this viewpoint, all teachings when based on the Lotus Sutra express various aspects of the ultimate truth. Absolute myō contrasts with comparative myō, which means that the Lotus Sutra is superior when compared with all other Buddhist teachings.
Accumulated Treasures Sutra Also, the Accumulated Great Treasures Sutra. A Chinese translation in 120 volumes produced in 713 by Bodhiruchi; a collection of 49 independent scriptures, covering such matters as the practice of bodhisattvas and prophecies concerning the future enlightenment of Buddhist practitioners. The title indicates its nature as a collection of scriptural treasures.
āchārya (Skt) An honorific title meaning teacher, conferred upon a priest who guides the conduct of disciples and serves as an example to them.
acting administrator Hōjō Yoshitoki (1163–1224), the second regent of the Kamakura government.
administrator of priests An official government-conferred rank within the Buddhist priesthood. As the highest-ranking official within the priesthood, the administrator of priests held supervisory authority over the other priests and nuns. Later the system of ranking for priests became a matter of formality, with such titles bestowing honor but indicating no specific function or position.
Advent of Maitreya Sutra A sutra that predicts Bodhisattva Maitreya’s future descent from the Tushita heaven and his return to the human realm. One of three principal sutras concerning Maitreya, a bodhisattva who is revered as the “future Buddha,” it tells of Maitreya’s advent in the world 5,670 million years after Shakyamuni Buddha’s death, at which time he will endeavor to save the people as Shakyamuni’s successor.
Afterword to the Lotus Sutra Translation, The A short account of Kumārajīva’s translation of the Lotus Sutra into Chinese, and of that translated work, entitled the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law. Seng-chao, the author, was a major disciple of Kumārajīva. It compares Kumārajīva’s translation with a previous translation by Dharmaraksha entitled the Lotus Sutra of the Correct Law. The work constitutes documentary evidence that Kumārajīva’s translation originally included the “Devadatta” chapter and consisted of twenty-eight chapters. This chapter was not an independent chapter in Dharmaraksha’s translation, which accordingly consisted of twenty-seven chapters.
Āgama sutras A group of sutras containing Shakyamuni’s earlier teachings, later categorized as the Hinayana teachings. Āgama means “teachings handed down by tradition.”
Ajātashatru A king of the state of Magadha in India. Incited by Devadatta, he killed his father, King Bimbisāra, a follower of Shakyamuni, and ascended the throne to become the most influential ruler of his time. Later he was afflicted with a terrible skin disease and, in remorse for his evil acts, converted to Buddhism. He sponsored the First Buddhist Council for the compilation of Shakyamuni’s teachings.
Ajitavatī See Hiranyavatī.
Akitsushima An ancient name for Japan. Akitsu is an ancient term for “dragonfly” and shima means island. According to The Chronicles of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan, climbed a mountain and looked out over his realm and stated that it resembled dragonflies linked at the tail. The work says that Japan thereafter came to be called Akitsushima.
ālaya-consciousness Also called “storehouse consciousness.” The level of consciousness where the results of one’s actions (karma), good or bad, accumulate as karmic potentials or “seeds” that later produce the results of happiness or suffering. According to the Consciousness-Only school, which postulates the existence of eight levels of consciousness, the ālaya-consciousness corresponds to the eighth level and is the source of the first seven consciousnesses, as well as the storehouse for the seeds that produce all things and phenomena. The T’ien-t’ai and Flower Garland schools refer to another, deeper, level—the ninth consciousness—which corresponds to the true aspect of life, or the Buddha nature.
Amida (Skt Amitāyus or Amitābha, “Infinite Life” or “Infinite Light”) The Buddha of the Land of Perfect Bliss in the west. According to the Buddha Infinite Life Sutra, a bodhisattva named Dharma Treasury made forty-eight vows concerning the Buddha land he would establish upon attaining enlightenment. After many kalpas of practicing austerities, he became Amida Buddha and realized his pure land. Amida is worshiped by adherents of the Pure Land school.
Amida Sutra One of the three basic scriptures of Pure Land Buddhism. Kumārajīva’s translation of the smaller Sukhāvatīvyūha. Written in the form of a discourse between Shakyamuni, Shāriputra, and others, it describes the blessings associated with Amida Buddha and his pure land and asserts that one can attain rebirth in this land by relying on Amida.
amrita (Skt) A legendary, ambrosia-like liquid. Often translated as sweet dew. In ancient India it was regarded as the sweet-tasting beverage of the gods. In China it was thought to rain down from heaven when the world became peaceful. The word “amrita” means immortality.
Ānanda One of Shakyamuni’s ten major disciples. He was a cousin of Shakyamuni and also the younger brother of Devadatta. For many years he accompanied Shakyamuni as his personal attendant and thus heard more of his teachings than any other disciple. He was known, therefore, as the foremost in hearing the Buddha’s teachings. In addition, he is said to have possessed an excellent memory, which allowed him to play a central role in compiling Shakyamuni’s teachings at the First Buddhist Council after the Buddha’s passing.
Anavatapta A dragon said to live in Heat-Free (Anavatapta) Lake, north of the Snow Mountains.
Angulimāla A notorious murderer who became a follower of Shakyamuni Buddha. After having already killed 999 people, he was preparing to kill his own mother and Shakyamuni as well when he received instruction from the Buddha and repented.
Aniruddha A cousin of Shakyamuni Buddha and one of his ten major disciples, known as the foremost in divine insight. His father is regarded as having been either King Amritodana or King Dronodana, each of whom was the younger brother of Shuddhodana, Shakyamuni’s father.
An’ne (794–868) The fourth chief priest of Enryaku-ji, the head temple of the Tendai school in Japan.
Annen (b. 841) A priest of the Tendai school who helped establish the doctrine and practice of Tendai Esotericism in Japan.
Annotations on “Great Concentration and Insight,” The A commentary by Miao-lo on Great Concentration and Insight, one of T’ien-t’ai’s three major works.
Annotations on the Mahāvairochana Sutra, The A compilation by I-hsing of lectures given by Shan-wu-wei (Skt Shubhakarasimha) on the Mahāvairochana Sutra, after the latter had translated the sutra into Chinese. After I-hsing’s death, Chih-yen and Wen-ku revised it and titled their work The Commentary on the Meaning of the Mahāvairochana Sutra. In Japan, The Annotations on the Mahāvairochana Sutra, which was introduced to that country by Kōbō, became a textbook of True Word (Jpn Shingon) Esotericism, while Commentary on the Meaning of the Mahāvairochana Sutra, brought by Jikaku and Chishō of the Japanese Tendai school, became a textbook of Tendai Esotericism.
Annotations on “The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra,” The A commentary by Miao-lo on The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, one of T’ien-t’ai’s three major works.
Annotations on “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra,” The A commentary by Miao-lo on The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra, one of T’ien-t’ai’s three major works.
anointment ceremony See ceremony of anointment.
arhat (Skt) One who has attained the highest stage of awakening in the Hinayana teachings. Arhat means one who is worthy of respect.
Āryadeva (n.d.) A third-century scholar of the Mādhyamika school in India. He was born to a Brahman family in southern India and studied the doctrine of non-substantiality under Nāgārjuna. He was also called Kānadeva because of the loss of an eye (kāna means “one eye”). He refuted teachers of Brahmanism at Pātaliputra in a religious debate and was killed by one of their disciples. Āryadeva is regarded as the fourteenth of Shakyamuni’s twenty-three, or the fifteenth of his twenty-four, successors.
Āryasimha (n.d.) The last of Shakyamuni’s twenty-four successors, who lived in central India during the sixth century. His efforts to propagate Buddhism led to his execution by Dammira, a king who destroyed many Buddhist temples and murdered scores of monks. Āryasimha was among those beheaded by the king.
asamkhya (Skt) “Innumerable.” An ancient Indian numerical unit indicating an exceedingly large number. One account has it equal to 1059, while another describes it as 1051.
Asanga (n.d.) Scholar of the Consciousness-Only doctrine. He is thought to have lived around 310–390 or, according to another account, around 390–470. Born to a Brahman family at Purushapura in Gandhāra in northern India, he initially studied the Hinayana teachings but was dissatisfied with these doctrines and made efforts to master the Mahayana teachings as well. When Vasubandhu, his younger brother, became attached to Hinayana teachings, Asanga converted him to Mahayana Buddhism.
Ascent and Rebirth of Maitreya Sutra One of the three principal sutras devoted to Maitreya, it depicts a scene in which the Buddha is questioned by his disciple Upāli about the future of Maitreya. The Buddha in response explains that Maitreya will die and be reborn in the Tushita heaven in twelve years; he also states that anyone who hears the name of Bodhisattva Maitreya will be reborn in the Tushita heaven as well.
Ashoka (r. c. 268–232 b.c.e.) The third ruler of the Indian Maurya dynasty and the first king to unify India. During the early years of his reign he was a tyrant, but later he converted to Buddhism and governed compassionately in accordance with Buddhist ideals.
Ashvaghosha (n.d.) A second-century Mahayana scholar and poet of Shrāvastī in India. He at first criticized Buddhism but was later converted by Pārshva. He led many people to the Buddha’s teachings through his skill in music and literature. Ashvaghosha is known as the twelfth of Shakyamuni’s twenty-four successors.
Asita (1) A seer mentioned in the “Devadatta” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, referred to as a former incarnation of Devadatta. According to this chapter, in one of his past existences, Shakyamuni was seeking the Law. At that time, Asita expounded the Lotus Sutra for him. (2) A seer of Kapilavastu, the kingdom of the Shākya tribe. When Shakyamuni was born, King Shuddhodana asked Asita to examine the baby’s physiognomy. Asita, perceiving the thirty-two features of a great man, foretold that, if the boy remained in the secular world, he would become a wheel-turning king by the age of twenty-nine, but if he renounced secular life, which was more probable, he would achieve supreme wisdom and attain Buddhahood. Asita lamented that, since he himself was already ninety years old, he would die before the prince attained enlightenment and therefore be unable to hear the Buddha’s teaching.
Aspiration for the Law The name of Shakyamuni in a past existence. When the ascetic Aspiration for the Law was seeking the Law, a devil disguised as a Brahman appeared to him and said that he would reveal to him a Buddhist teaching if he was ready to transcribe it using his skin as paper, one of his bones as a pen, and his blood as ink. When Aspiration for the Law gladly agreed and prepared to write down the Buddhist teaching, the devil vanished. In response to his seeking mind, a Buddha appeared and taught him a profound teaching.
asura (Skt) A type of demon in Indian mythology, contentious and belligerent by nature, who fights continually with the god Shakra, or Indra. The world of asuras constitutes one of the six paths of existence, the lower six of the Ten Worlds.
Attainment of Buddhahood by Maitreya Sutra One of the three principal sutras devoted to Maitreya. The text was translated into Chinese by Kumārajīva. It records an explanation by Shakyamuni Buddha to Shāriputra concerning Maitreya. The Buddha predicts that Maitreya, a person of unsurpassed virtue and merit, will appear in the world as the future Buddha. When Shāriputra asks what kind of practice enables one to see the Buddha Maitreya in the future, Shakyamuni replies that as a result of putting one’s trust in Maitreya, one will be reborn in his land in Jambudvīpa, and describes the splendid aspects of that land.
Avīchi hell Also, the hell of incessant suffering. The most terrible of the eight hot hells. The Avīchi hell is also referred to as the great citadel of the Avīchi hell because it is surrounded by seven solid iron walls that make it impossible for its inhabitants to escape. The Sanskrit word avīchi was translated into Chinese as “incessant,” indicating that in this hell, pain and suffering continue without interruption. It is said that one who commits any of the five cardinal sins or slanders the correct teaching is destined to be reborn in the Avīchi hell.
Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, The A work that sets forth the fundamental doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism and attempts to awaken people to faith in it. This work is traditionally attributed to Ashvaghosha, though there are differing opinions concerning the author.
Awesome Sound King A Buddha mentioned in the “Never Disparaging” chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging appeared during the Middle Day of the Law of the Buddha Awesome Sound King when Buddhism was in decline and arrogant monks held great authority. The bodhisattva revered all people for their innate Buddha nature, and was slandered and beaten for doing so by ignorant and conceited people.