Saturday, 3 March 2012

A short glossary of Japanese terms used in SGI

As I promised, here is a short glossary of Japanese terms used in everyday Buddhism. 
This list is by no means comprehensive (basically I put in here everything that popped into my mind, but there's surely more that slipped through :))

Butsudan = literally "the house of the Buddha" is a (more or less) small wooden closet used to protect the Gohonzon. It's the only item of the Butsugu you have to have if you want to receive Gohonzon. 

Butsugu = all the stuff you put around your Butsudan. A basic list of items is: a bell, a cup with water (water is offered only in the morning), candles (to be lit during gongyo), a bowl with fruit, a plate to burn incense, a couple of evergreen plants. None of these items is necessary, although you will find them all in a Buddhist centre or in a big meeting.

Butsuma = the room where you keep your Butsudan. It doesn't have to be a special separate room although of course it's every little buddhist's dream to have a dedicated Butsuma at home. Mine is my bedroom, for example.

My personal Butsudan, which was given to me by a lovely Japanese lady when I received my Gohonzon. This picture was taken in my old house and as you can see, my Butsugu was quite basic. I have more stuff now but for example I don't do incense. I can't chant for more than two minutes when incense is burning.
byakuren = literally "White lotus flower" is a member of the Young Women division who offers her time and chanting to protect the meetings and make sure everything runs smoothly. Called a Lilac in the UK. Look here for more info. 

daimoku = literally "title" is the practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

Daishonin = not Nichiren's surname ;) it means "great sage" 

domei = like a toso, but with everyone chanting from their own houses. 

esho funi = short for esho funi nini funi, or "two but not two, not two but two". It's a very complicated principle to explain in detail, but it basically describes the oneness of life and environment that leads to fundamental buddhist compassion. 

fukusa = a napkin, usually silk, used to wrap and carry around one's personal gongyo book and juzu.

I actually used to have one that looks a lot like this one. I think.
fukushi = a child born after at least one parent embraces Buddhism. 

Gohonzon = our object of devotion. Go- is a honorific prefix, -honzon means "object of devotion" (the word has, of course, about a dozen other meanings ^^). It's a scroll written in ornate Chinese characters that we consider at the same time the embodiment of the Mystic Law and a representation of our own precious life. 
It is entrusted to you by the Soka Gakkai when you decide to embrace Buddhism for the rest of your life. You DO NOT have to pay for it. 
General etiquette imposes never to reproduce it (eg taking pictures of it) or touch it with bare hands (white gloves are customary). 

gongyo = "assiduous practice", the daily practice of chanting the Hoben chapter and the verse part of the Juryo chapter (two of the 28 chapters that constitute the Lotus Sutra) 

Gosho = the letters written by Nichiren Daishonin to his several disciples, which constitute one of the main sources of study for us 

hosshaku kempon = "casting off the transient and revealing the true."

hon-nin myo = "the true cause". My mother always explained this to me as "from this moment forward", in other words, always make a fresh departure without being enslaved by your past. 

ichinen = endless meanings here, but usually used to indicate your unstoppable determination endowed with the wisdom of the Buddha. 

ichinen sanzen = three thousand realms in a single moment of life. 

itai doshin = "many in body, one in mind". A type of unity that is not a mechanical uniformity, imposed or coerced from without. Rather, it is unity that has at its heart respect for the diverse and unique qualities of each individual ("many in body"). Such unity arises, to quote SGI President Ikeda, when people "treasure each other as unique and irreplaceable individuals, and try to bring out the best in each other." Quoted from here. 

juzu = buddhist praying beads.
My juzu looks exactly like this one. As you notice it has three "legs" on one side and two on the other, representing in fact a stylised human figure. You are supposed to wear them like in the picture below, twisting them in the middle to create the shape of an 8. My dad used to say it represents the fact that your life is endless (the 8), that you hold it in your hands, and that you possess the ten worlds all at the same time (the ten fingers of the hands touching each other). Cool, innit? Then, of course, it is mainly used to make noise while you chant. Particularly useful when you're chanting on your own and you want the sound to carry on in the odd pauses for breathing :)

keibi = a member entrusted with the protection of the Gohonzon at the Buddhist centres 

Kosen Rufu = our ultimate goal: world peace, obtained when everyone in the world will be practising this Buddhism 

Kosen Rufu Gongyo = a meeting held on the first Sunday of the month at a district level, where the district chants and does Gongyo together to achieve Kosen Rufu. Commonly also used as a planning meeting for the monthly Zadankai.

Naitoku = someone who practises correctly but without a Gohonzon. In Italy it would be someone who has been practising correctly for at least a month. 

Omamori Gohonzon = a miniature, portable Gohonzon. It is normally entrusted to people who have been chanting for a long time or in special circumstances (e.g. someone who travels constantly for work and can't have a Butsudan). Both my parents have it.

sansho = chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo solemnly three times. It's the way we usually start and end pretty much everything ^^ 

sanshoshima = obstacles 

Sensei = "mentor" it's the way we normally refer to President Ikeda 

soka-han = male equivalent of the byakuren. Called a soka in the UK. 

shakubuku = the act of talking to people about Buddhism and hopefully inviting them to a discussion meeting. 

shinrai = literally "newcomer", someone who is interested in Buddhism and casually practises and/or attends meetings.

Shonin = not Nikko and Nichimoku's surname ;) it's a honorific title meaning "sage" 

Tokubetsu Gohonzon = quite basically, a big Gohonzon. It is what you would normally find in Buddhist centres (easier to see from the back of a big room) but it can also be entrusted to people who have been practising for a long time.

toso = (mostly spelt tozo for some reason) a meeting dedicated only to chanting together 

zadankai = the district discussion meeting. The single most important Buddhist activity we do. Widely called "discussion meeting" in the UK. 

zuiho bini = a principle according to which, "so long as no seriously offensive act is involved [...] even though one should depart to some slight degree from the teachings of Buddhism, one should avoid going against the manners and customs of the country" (WND 6, 3 "Recitation of the Hoben and Juryo Chapters"). Which is the reason why I always got Christmas presents ^^


  1. Thank you for the clarification <3 :)

  2. I really thank you so much for your post, and especially for your passion and your strong dedication.
    A big hug :D
    ***Jonathan Concas***

  3. I had to google to find the meaning of thanks for this glossary and also that they are not surnames but mean sage :O

  4. Thank you. I was wracking by brain trying to remember the term 'hon nin myo' today, and ran across your blog. Very helpful.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...