Crooked Cucumber

The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki


Definitions of Japanese, Sanskrit (Skt), and English words as used in this book.

 abbot Used for jūshoku, chief priest of a temple or monastery.

Amida Buddhism (Amidism) A devotional form of Buddhism venerating the mythic/cosmic Buddha Amida (Skt: Amitābha). Includes Jōdo and Jōdo Shin Buddhism.

Avalokiteshvara (Skt) The mythic/cosmic bodhisattva of compassion who hears the cries of the world. Japanese: Kannon.

Bodhidharma (Skt) A semi-legendary Indian monk who became the first ancestor of Zen in China.

bodhisattva (Skt) Enlightening being, one who vows to awaken to ultimate truth together with all others.

bow Can mean Buddhist gassho or prostration, or the Japanese ojigi, wherein the head and upper body are tilted forward without the hands joining.

buddha (Skt) An awakened one, referring both to specific historic or mythic persons such as Shakyamuni Buddha and Amida Buddha, and also to ultimate awakened reality and to the possibility of awakening in all beings.

buddha hall (hondōhattō) Central room in a temple where ceremonies and services are held before buddha images.

Daikoku-sama Named after one of the seven gods of good fortune, women who lived, worked, and loved in Buddhist temples before it was permissible.

daioshō "Great priest," an honorific title for priests.

danka The community of lay members/supporters of a temple in Japan.

dharma (Skt) The teaching, also the truth or reality that is taught, and the path to approach that truth.

dharma brothers Disciples of the same teacher.

dharma transmission The authorization to teach passed from teacher to disciple.

Diet The assembly of nationally elected legislators in Japan.

Dōgen, Kigen (Eihei Dōgen, Dōgen-zenji) The founder of Sōtō Zen in Japan in the thirteenth century.

dokusan A formal private practice or dharma-related interview with a teacher who has received dharma transmission.

Eiheiji In Fukui prefecture, one of the two head temples/training monasteries of Sōtō Zen (along with Sōjiji in Yokohama). Founded by Dōgen.

emptiness A technical term denoting the lack of inherent, fixed existence of any entity. Implies interconnectedness, relativity, and the dependent co-arising of all phenomena. Not a thing, rather the nature of all existence. Not nonexistence as opposed to existence. Comes from root meaning "to swell."

four-and-nine-days Traditional days of relaxed schedule in Zen monasteries.

futon Japanese mat-style bed and bedding.

gasshō Buddhist gesture or greeting with the palms placed together.

genkan Entryway.

geta Wooden platform sandals.

go An ancient East Asian board game, the national board game of Japan, played on a grid with black and white disk-shaped "stones." A deceptively simple and intricately subtle game traditionally enjoyed by Zen adepts. The winner of the game is the one who defines and gains the most space.

goza Thin grass mats used for sitting or bowing.

hai Yes.

Haibutsu Kishaku The persecution of Buddhists at the beginning of the Meiji era.

haiku A seventeen-syllable verse form usually emphasizing natural images with seasonal references.

hakama A pleated traditional skirt for men and women. Still used in martial arts.

han (literally, "wood") A wooden plaque struck with a mallet, used to call monks to the zendo and for other ceremonial purposes.

head monk (shuso) The training position for a monk who helps lead the teaching during a practice period.

Heart Sūtra (Hannya Shingyō) The shortest and most widely used of the Prajnā Pāramitā (Perfection of Wisdom) Sutras, especially by Mahayana Buddhists; a concise distillation of the teaching on emptiness.

hibachi A cast-iron or earthen pot containing charcoal used for cooking.

Hōjō-san Title for the head priest of a temple.

ikebana Traditional Japanese flower arranging.

-ji, -in, and -an Suffixes used for the names of temples

jinrikisha A two-wheeled taxi pulled by a person.

Jōdo Shin-shū "The true school of the Pure Land," a faith-oriented sect of Buddhism, the largest in Japan. In the U.S. called the BCA, Buddhist Churches of America.

kanji Chinese characters (ideographs) used in Japanese writing.

Kannon See Avalokiteshvara.

kenshō (literally "seeing the nature") A sometimes dramatic experience of insight.

kesa Monk's outer patchwork robe signifying ordination (okesa, more respectfully).

kinhin Walking zazen or meditation.

kōan (literally, "public case") An exemplary story or dialogue to be studied or used as a meditation object worked on with a teacher.

koromo The long-sleeved monk's robe of Chinese origin worn over the kimono.

kotatsu A low table covered by a blanket, heated from underneath.

kyōsaku The stick used to hit drowsy monks on the shoulder.

lay ordination A formal ceremony for lay people to take the precepts and express their commitment to Buddha's way.

manjū A Japanese confection made from rice flower and bean paste.

matcha Strong, thick, powdered green tea, served in tea ceremony.

Meiji The period of Japanese history from 1868 to 1912.

mochi Sweet glutinous rice cakes, especially popular at New Year.

mokugyō (literally, "wooden fish") A hollow drum carved from one piece of wood and struck with a padded mallet.

monastery Term used for large training temples for monks, nuns, and sometimes lay people.

monk Someone who has received home-leaving ordination and who lives according to monastic discipline and schedule.

Mountain Seat Ceremony (Shinsanshiki) A rite in which the abbotship of a temple is passed on to the abbot's successor.

mudrā (Skt) A hand position or physical gesture or posture that embodies an aspect of Buddhist teaching.

nirvāna (Skt) In early Buddhism, the cessation of all suffering. In Zen, nirvāna is understood as ultimately not separate from everyday life and the worldly cycles of suffering.

Obon Japanese summer festival in which the spirits of the departed return.

ohaka Graveyard, place where remains, usually ashes, of the dead are interred (informally, haka).

ōryōki Monk's stacked and cloth-wrapped eating bowls.

pachinko An upright form of pinball machine, totally dependent on luck, played in noisy, crowded halls where one can win small prizes.

practice period (ango, "dwelling in peace") A time, usually three months, of intensive monastic training under the guidance of a teacher in a temple or monastery.

precepts Ethical guidelines of conduct for expressing buddha mind. They include taking refuge in buddha, dharma, and sangha, and a series of descriptions of awakened ethical conduct that begin with refraining from taking life.

priest Someone who has received home-leaving ordination (monk training), and who performs ceremonial and pastoral functions.

prostration (raihai) Full bow with the shins, forehead, hands, and elbows touching the floor.

rakusu Bib-like vestment received in monk or lay ordination.

Rinzai Zen One of the two main sects of Zen, emphasizing vigorous dynamic style and systematic kōan study.

rōshi "Venerable old teacher," respectful title for priest, Zen master.

sama Very polite form of address used after a person's name, more polite thansan.

samādhi (Skt) A deep meditative state. Many specific samadhis are listed in Buddhist writings.

sangha (Skt) The Buddhist community. Originally the order of monks, later coming to include all practitioners.

satori A sudden flash of deep insight into the nature of reality.

seiza Traditional Japanese kneeling position.

sensei Title used for teachers, doctors, and other respected persons.

sesshin A concentrated zazen retreat of one or more days, usually five or seven.

shashu A formal position used in walking meditation, wherein the hands are held together at the solar plexus.

shiatsu Japanese pressure point massage.

shikantaza "Just sitting," zazen without a fixed object of concentration, emphasizing upright posture and presence.

Shinto Japan's indigenous spiritual tradition, involving veneration of nature spirits.

shōji Sliding door of wood latticework and translucent rice paper.

Shōwa The period of Japanese history from 1926 to 1989.

shū A religion or a religious sect or school, as in Sōtō-shū.

Shushōgi A compilation of important Sōtō writings put together in the late nineteenth century.

Sōjiji See Eiheiji.

Sōtō Zen One of the two main sects of Zen, emphasizing "just sitting" or silent illumination meditation and its application to everyday activity.

stick See kyōsaku. Not to be confused with the teacher's stick.

sumi Traditional black ink used in calligraphy and painting.

sūtra (Skt) Discourses of the Buddha, used for old Buddhist scriptures or scriptures to be chanted.

tabi White socks with a separate pocket for the big toe, worn with zorigeta, or other sandals.

Taishō The period of Japanese history from 1912 to 1926.

Taoism (also Daoism) An ancient Chinese religion/philosophy emphasizing an appreciation of nature and harmonious life.

takuhatsu (literally, "to entrust the bowl") Monk's formal begging.

tatami Japanese rigid straw floor mats approximately two inches thick and three by six feet in area.

tea ceremony (chanoyu) A formal, aesthetic method of preparing and serving tea, originating in Japan around the sixteenth century.

teacher's stick (nyoi) A short, carved, curved stick carried by teachers in formal situations, often with a tassel.

theosophy A Western spiritual movement founded in the nineteenth century in Europe, highly influenced by Eastern religions.

the ten directions Shorthand for everywhere: north, south, east, west, their midpoints, the zenith and nadir.

the three times Past, present, and future.

tokonoma An alcove in a Japanese room in which may be placed such objects as a calligraphy scroll, a stone, or a flower arrangement.

transmission See dharma transmission.

unsui (literally, "cloud and water") A monk, often novice monks.

whisks, horsehair and ox-hair (hossu) An emblem of a teacher, traditionally used to whisk away flies.

zafu Zazen cushion, usually black and round.

zazen Zen meditation, sitting meditation.

zazenkai In Japan, a regular lay zazen group, usually meeting weekly or monthly.

Zen A school of Buddhism originating in China which emphasizes zazen, direct insight, and actual experience of Buddhist truth in everyday activity.

zendō A Zen meditation hall, zazen hall. Also used herein for sodō, which in Japanese training monasteries is also used for sleeping and eating.

zenji A title meaning Zen master.

zōri Traditional Japanese sandals, thongs.

Thanks for the help with this glossary Taigen Dan Leighton.