(also: Palyul) Nyingma is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism: Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug. The Nyingma school was the first to develop, tracing its origins back to the 9th-century tantric practitioner Padmasambhava. Characteristic of the Nyingma teachings is its classification of the path to enlightenment as progressing through nine stages, the first three of which are the paths described in the various sutras, the remaining six indicating the ever more mystical paths taught in the tantric texts.

Shaku, Soyen

Soyen Shaku (1859-1919) was the first Rinzai Zen teacher to come to the United States. He initially came in 1893 in order to participate in the World Parliament of Religions. Soyen returned to America 12 years later for a nine month stay, during which time he and his lay disciple D.T. Suzuki criss-crossed the country to teach meditation, especially koan study.

Carus, Paul

Paul Carus (1852-1919), a German immigrant, was attracted to Buddhism and made the argument that it could be understood rationally as compatible with science. He edited The Open Court, a journal which investigated religion and science. His book The Gospel of Buddhism, published in 1894, compiled passages from various Buddhist scriptures. D.T. Suzuki translated the book into Japanese and came to work with Carus in Illinois.

Heart Sutra

The Heart Sutra dates from the 4th century and, like the Diamond Sutra, is a condensation of Buddhist wisdom literature. Its main teaching is that all reality is empty, i.e. without any permanent, abiding nature. The realization of this fluidity and impermanence of reality is none other than nirvana, enlightenment. Chanting the Heart Sutra is a common practice in many Japanese Zen and Korean Son traditions.

Namu Myoho Renge Kyo

Adherents of the various Japanese Nichiren traditions, daily recite this phrase, which means, “Reverence to the Lotus Sutra.” The Lotus Sutra emphasizes the universality of Buddha Nature and the unity of all Buddhist teachings. According to the monk Nichiren (1222-1282), the teachings of this text are so powerful that one need not read and reflect on the whole of the sutra. Rather, in this degenerate age, merely reciting the sutra’s name in full faith will lead to liberation.

Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng

Chan (Zen) histories relate that a controversy arose in the 7th century over whether the sixth Chan patriarch was Shenxiu, who regarded enlightenment as gradually occurring by stages, or Huineng (638-713), who asserted that one attained complete enlightenment instantaneously. Eventually all Chan, Chogye, and Zen schools came to follow Huineng’s teachings as recorded in the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.

Watts, Alan

Alan Watts was one of the earliest Euro-American Buddhists to introduce the Zen tradition to the wider American community. In such books as The Way of Zen, this Episcopal priest turned Zen practitioner introduced meditation as a way of enlightenment well suited for those whose intellectual and religious outlook had been shaped by Western ideas and values.


Buddhism is a multi-hued tradition of life, thought, and practice that has developed from the teaching and practice of Siddhartha Gautama (6th century BCE) who came to be called the Buddha, the awakened one. The three major streams of the tradition—Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana—share the conviction that one can gain liberation from the suffering inherent in life through mental attentiveness, moral cultivation, and compassionate service. Today, large Buddhist communities can be found in South and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and East Asia, with ever increasing communities in North... Read more about Buddhism


A monastery is the residence of monks, or monastics; the term is commonly used in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions. Monasticism refers to the life of work, study, and discipline led by monks and nuns.

Shambhala Vajradhatu International

Formed in 1973 by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Shambhala Vajradhatu is a worldwide organization with its headquarters in Halifax, Nova Scotia, two other main centers in Boulder, Colorado and Marburg, Germany, and more than 100 meditation centers around the world. The Shambhala board of directors also oversees the Naropa Institute (a four-year liberal arts college) and Gampo Abbey, the premier Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in North America.

Vajrayana Buddhism

Vajrayana emerged in the 7th century CE as a subset of Mahayana sometimes seen as the third major stream of Buddhism. This tradition is most prominent in Tibet and its surrounding regions, although forms of it are found in China and Japan. Vajrayana, literally the “Diamond Vehicle” or the “Thunderbolt Vehicle,” understands itself to be an esoteric, Tantric form of Buddhism which embraces the teachings and fulfills the methods of both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions.


Buddha means “awakened one” and specifically refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama (traditional date, sixth c. BCE), the historical founder of the tradition that became known as Buddhism. All Buddhist traditions agree that there have been many Buddhas, but the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions particularly emphasize that Shakyamuni is only one of a variety of Buddhas. Other prominent Buddhas include Amitabha, Bhaishajya-guru, and Vairochana.

Eightfold Noble Path

The Eightfold Noble Path is the Buddhist path of practice which includes the cultivation of ethical conduct, right understanding, and meditation that allows one to be free of the suffering inherent in ego-centered life. The eight aspects of the path are: right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

Maezumi-roshi, Taizan

Taizan Maezumi-roshi (d. 1995) received Dharma transmission in the Soto school in 1955. A year later, he came to the Los Angeles Soto Zenshuji temple (the headquarters of the Soto Zen school in America), staying there until 1967, when he formed the Los Angeles Zendo, later renamed the Zen Center of Los Angeles.


The Sangha is the community of monks or, more broadly, the community of Buddhists. To formally become a Buddhist, one takes refuge in the Three Treasures: the Buddha, Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings), and Sangha. In its widest sense, “sangha” refers to all those who follow the teachings of the Buddha. Often, however, the term is reserved specifically for the community of ordained monks and nuns. In its most restricted sense, it may refer to a family of students under a particular master.