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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
Phone: (323) 262-4430
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Buddhist Glossary of Terms


Rissho Kosei-kai is a society with spiritual interaction and unity of belief striving for self-improvement and realization of peaceful world harmony with Universal Truth. It originated from Japan in 1938. Founders Niwano and Naganuma saw the need for a Buddhist practice that would combine traditional teachings with everyday application to help a modern and expanding world find peace and harmony.

The Lotus Sutra is the sacred text that we study. It is a compilation of Buddha's teachings which include modern, scientific and humanistic truths. The lotus flower is special to us because it is rooted in muddy water yet grows and opens to be a pure and beautiful flower. This is true for humankind also. We have the capability to acknowledge our existence in this chaotic world and by study and practice of the path, we can grow and blossom into compassionate human beings with perfect freedom of mind.

Chanting - chanting portions of the Lotus Sutra and the mantra forms a major part of our traditional service. The object of chanting is not to simply read the words of the Sutra but to blend our voices with the rest of the Sangha in a meditative way.

Namu Myoho Renge Kyo - Translated:
Namu - deep respect;
Myoho - workings of the universe;
Renge -white lotus emerging;
Kyo -sutra, a thread upon which jewels of wisdom are strung.
This is our chant or mantra. It is used throughout our ceremony.

Sash - Our sash is representative of the monk's robe. On the front is "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo". On the back - "We practice the Bodhisattva Way". Wearing the sash during preparation of the altar and recitation of the sutra is a purification ritual. It puts us in a respectful state, cleanses our hearts and clears our minds. A Bodhisattva is one who practices compassion in action.

Beads - beads represents the 108 human delusions. As we rub the beads together, we call on the Eternal Buddha to be with us. By use of a cutting motion, we purify our minds of all delusion and unnecessary thought. They may also be used in counting repetitions of the mantra.

Gassho - Hands are used in love and honor of life - art, music, cooking, healing, loving, protecting. Hands held together with palms facing each other, connect us with the Universal Energies are a posture in "peace education". It is a way of showing respect to those who have gone before us and also to the buddha-nature in each of us.



Buddhahood - Achieving Perfect or Supreme Enlightenment

Bodhisattva -
Bodhi - buddhahood;
sattva - living being.
(1) A being in the final stage prior to attaining buddhahood.
(2) One who seeks enlightenment not only for himself but for all sentient beings.

Bodhisattva-mahasattva - A perfected bodhisattva, greater than any being, especially in saving other beings; a perfected being who falls short of buddhahood only because, in order to save others, he has voluntarily given up nirvana.

Dharma - (aka Law) a sanskrit term meaning the Truth; the teaching of the Buddha.

Eagle Peak - AKA Vulture Peak, Mount Grdhrakuta

Emptiness - The second of the three seals (after everything is impermanent). The idea that nothing has its own intrinsic existence. Everything is connected through cause and effect to everything else. Understanding this principle, for example, you would look at a wooden table and see everything from the craftsman who made it to the sunlight giving life to the trees in the forest. Without each participant in the process along the way, the table would not exist.

Great Vehicle - The meaning of the Sanskrit term Mahayana which is the name of the northern branch of Buddhism

Kalpa - An eon. A measurement commonly used in ancient India to denote extraordinarily long periods of time.

Karma - The results of actions, which produce effects, which may be either good or bad.

Kotis - Millions of years

Law Flower Sutra - Another name for the Lotus Sutra

Parinirvana - Literally "complete extinction." Perfect quietude, when all illusion is destroyed. This word is frequently used to signify the death of Sakyamuni.

Sangha (Samgha)- Originally the community of monks (bhikshus) and nuns (bhikshunis) but now used to describe both lay and monastic followers.

Six Realms - The six realms refer to the six realms one may be reborn into in the next life In the Kyoden they also refer to mental states one can move among even moment to moment in response to events happening around and to us. The realms are: Gods, Asuras (aka demigods), Humans, Animals, Hungry Ghosts, Hell.

Sutra - Literally "thread." The scriptures containing the teachings of the Buddha.

Three Treasures - The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha

One Vehicle - see Great Vehicle



Superior Practice, Boundless Practice, Pure Practice, Steadfast Practice - The four great perfected bodhisattvas who attend Shakyamuni Buddha and protect the Lotus Sutra and its devotees.

Devadatta - A cousin of Shakyamuni who followed him at first but later turned against him and tried to have him killed.

Kannon - Kannon in Japanese Buddhism, also known as Kuan (Kwan, Guan) Yin in China. The Goddess of compassion. It is believed that Kannon originated as the male Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in northern India.

Manjushri - A perfected bodhisatvva characterized by great wisdom who is supposed to have attended countless buddhas and be always in attendance with Shakyamuni Buddha.

Maitreya - A future Buddha who will appear to teach the Dharma after the teachings of Shakyamuni have died out and been forgotten.

Myoko - Co-founder of Rissho Kosei Kai.

Nichiren - A 13th Century Japanese monk who developed Nichiren Buddhism based on the study and practice of the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiko Niwano - President of Rissho Kosei Kai and son of founder Niwano.

Nikkyo Niwano - Founder and former President of Rissho Kosei Kai.

Shakyamuni - Name of the historical Buddha, Sidhartha Gautama. Also means 'the sage of the Sakyas' and is commonly used in Mahayana Buddhism.

Shariputra - One of the Buddha's principal disciples.

Tathagata - A title or epithet of the Buddha, meaning 'one who has thus come' or 'one who has thus gone'.

Universal Virtue - Universal Virtue is the bodhisattva of the virtues of truth, concentration, and practice, and his appearance symbolizes the preeminence of a thorough practice

World Honored One - One of the ten traditional titles of the historical Buddha



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Rissho Kosei-kai International of North America
2707 East First St., Suite 1, Los Angeles, CA 90033
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