Zen Glossary

Butsudan   (boot – soo – dan)
Literally “Buddha altar”. In the main Dharma Hall, the Buddha-altar is “the temple in the middle of the home”.
Ensō    (en – so)
A circle symbolizing enlightenment and the void or oneness. The circle, executed with a single fluid brush­stroke, is a popular theme in Zen calligraphy.
Gasshō    (gah – sho)
Literally “palms together”. The palms are joined so that the fingertips are at the height of the nose.
Han    (hahn)
Literally board, a thick rectangular wooden board hung in front of the zendo on which a rhythm is beaten with a wooden mallet three times a day: at dawn, at dusk and before going to bed.
Handaikan    (hahn – deye – kahn)
A server during meals and when tea is served.
Hashi    (hah – shee)
The Japanese word for chopsticks.
Inji   (in – jee)
Attendant to the Roshi.
Inka    (in – kah)
The seal of recognition that authentic enlightenment has been attained, and that a student has completed his training.
Jihatsu    (jee – haht – soo)
The name of the nesting set of meal bowls. The standard 5 bowl set is wrapped in cloth. During a meal, they will be unwrapped, used, cleaned, and wrapped back up again.
Jiki   (jee – kee)
Short form of Jikijitsu
Jikijitsu   (jee – kee – jit – soo)
The monk in charge of meditation in the zendō, second to the rōshi. All matters having to do with time are the responsibility of the “jiki”, provided the decisions do not conflict with the activities or wishes of the rōshi. The jikijitsu leads kinhin as well.
Kanshō    (kahn – sho)
The small hanging bell rung by the monks to signal entrance to the master’s room during sanzen.
Keisaku    (kay – sah – koo)
The “awakening stick,” used to spur on sitters during zazen.
Keisu   (kay – soo)
Bowl shaped gong used in chanting services. It is struck on the rim by a small padded club or mallet.
Kiai   (kee – eye)
vital energy
Kinhin   (kin – hin)
Walking meditation.
Kōan   (koh – ahn)
A question that has no intellectual answer that prompts the mind to go beyond normal thinking.
Koban   (koh – bahn)
The incense holder in which sticks of incense are burned by the jikijitsu during zazen.
Mokugyo    (moh – koo – gyo)
A wooden drum carved to look like a fish, to set the rhythm for chanting.
Rōhatsu   (roh – haht – soo)
The severest sesshin of the monastic year, commemorating the enlightenment of the Buddha.
Rōshi    (roh – shee)
“Old teacher” or “elder master”,  Zen master.
Saiza    (seye – zah)
Lunch, the main meal of the monastic day.
Sanzen    (sahn – zen)
Formal meditation study with a Zen master. More specifically, the private meetings between master and disciple in which the master instructs the disciple in meditation.
Samu    (sah – moo)
Manual labor in the monastery, a part of training equally important to zazen.
Samugi   (sah – moo – jee)
Working or everyday clothes for a Zen Buddhist monk.  Also known as samue or samuji.
Seiza    (say – zah)
A sitting position where one kneels and sits back onto the heels. This is the standard position for chanting during service.
Sesshin    (sesh – sheen)
Meditation retreat, generally lasting a few days to a week is a period of intensive meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery.
Shashu    (shah – shoo)
Hand position used when walking or standing in the zendō. Put the thumb of your left hand in the middle of the palm and make a fist around it. Place the fist in front of your waist. Cover the fist with your right hand.
Taku    (tah – koo)
Wooden clappers, two pieces of hard wood, about 5 x 5 x 25 cm. They are held parallel and struck together, making a sharp clack. The jikijitsu uses them to lead kinhin, and the ino also has a set with which to punctuate the meal­time recitations.
Tantō    (tahn – toh)
The tantō is usually an experienced senior student.
Teishō    (tay – shoh)
The rōshi’s dharma lecture, usually on a kōan, a Zen text, or a sutra. Rather than an explanation or exposition in the traditional sense, it is intended as a demonstration of Zen realisation.
Tenzo    (Ten – zoh)
Head cook, for a monastery or sesshin. Traditionally the role of tenzo was a position of high honor in zen monasteries. Similarly today, a tenzo is often considered to be one of the main leaders for sesshin.
Zazenkai    (zah – zen – keye)
One-day retreat.
Zendō    (zen – doh)
A Zen meditation hall, the place where zazen is practiced.