Soka Gakkai International

Soka Gakkai was founded in Japan in 1930 by an educator named Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. Soon after its founding, it became associated with Nichiren Shoshu, a sect of Nichiren Buddhism. In the early 1990s, all formal ties between Soka Gakkai International and Nichiren Shoshu were severed, although the two organizations continue to follow essentially the same teachings and forms of practice. Today Soka Gakkai International has some ten million members around the world, including an estimated 330,000 in the United States.

Won Buddhism

Won Buddhism is a form of Buddhism founded by the Korean Sot’aesan Pak Chungbin (1891-1943) in 1924 in response to the doctrinal and institutional challenges presented to Korean Buddhism by its Neo-Confucian critics and Christian missionaries. According to Pak Chungbin, because the Dharmakaya (Buddha Body of Truth) is the ineffable reality behind all things, it should be worshipped everywhere, not just in Buddhist images. Hence, the best symbol for this universality is a single circle (won).

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1940-87) was a recognized lineage holder in both the Kagyu and Nyingma Buddhist traditions of Tibet. During the Tibetan sovereignty debate in 1959, Trungpa fled to northern India. He began presenting Buddhist teachings in North America and Europe in 1970. Over the next 17 years, he founded over 100 Vajradhatu meditation centers, established the Naropa Institute (the first Buddhist University in the United States), and initiated Shambhala Training (a meditation program designed specifically for non-Buddhists).

Hompa Honganji

The Hompa or Nishi (Western) Honganji is one of two branches of Jodo Shinshu, the Japanese “True Pure Land” tradition. The many temples of the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) are part of this tradition.

Nichiren Daishonin

Born in Japan in 1222, Nichiren began his career as a monk of the Tendai school of Mahayana Buddhism. Nichiren means “Sun Lotus” and Daishonin means “Great Sage.” Eventually, he became convinced that the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, even the name of the text itself, pointed to the Great Pure Dharma that would lead people directly to enlightenment. Nichiren considered the recitation of the mantr. “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo” (“Reverence to the Lotus Sutra”) to be the core of the true teachings of the Buddha and was convinced that this practice would eventually spread throughout the world, a... Read more about Nichiren Daishonin


Shikantaza is a form of meditation known in English as “just sitting” is especially associated with Japanese Soto Zen. In this practice, one strives to erase the rigid categories associated with language so that the mind’s natural ability to illumine reality can shine forth. Sitting in zazen is not thought of as the means of obtaining enlightenment. Rather, to properly take the posture is itself to have the right state of mind.


Vinaya is one of the three main canonical categories of the Buddha’s teaching: vinaya (code of discipline), abhidharma (treatises on metaphysics), and sutra (discourses). Vinaya refers to the rules which guide monastic practice. Although various versions of the vinaya exist, all include in-depth commentary on the approximately 250 precepts to be kept by monks and over 300 precepts for nuns.

Goldstein, Joseph

Joseph Goldstein is one of America’s foremost teachers of vipassana or insight-meditation. After graduating from Columbia University, Goldstein went to Thailand with the Peace Corps in 1962, staying on after his two year stint to study vipassana in Bodh Gaya, India. In 1976, Goldstein teamed up with Jack Kornfield to become resident teachers at the newly-founded Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, where Goldstein continues to teach.


A monk is a man who renounces worldly life and is ordinarily a member of a monastic order or community, thereby undertaking a special commitment to study, service, asceticism, prayer, or disciplined spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, fully ordained monks are called bhikkhus, those who beg alms, depending upon the laity for their food and support. In the Jain tradition, ordained monks are called sadhus or holy ones; they traditionally live in close interaction with Jain laity, depending upon them for food and sustenance. In the Hindu tradition, a sannyasi is one who renounces... Read more about monk


The annual honoring of ancestors is celebrated by the various Buddhist ethnic communities at different times of the year, and is known by different names including Ullambana, Yu-lan-p’en, Obon, Vu-lan, the Obon Festival, Vietnamese Mothers’ Day and Ancestors’ Memorial Day. In each case, the day is spent by monks and laity alike dedicating offerings to the Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) on behalf of their parents and ancestors.

Buddha Nature

According to Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, every sentient being possesses Buddha Nature and therefore has the potential to realize enlightenment, regardless of the level of existence it currently occupies. The precise nature of this True Nature is debatable, but most agree that it is immutable and eternal, and fully realized only in enlightenment.

Four Noble Truths

The Buddha outlined the Four Noble Truths during his first sermon after achieving enlightenment. They are: 1 - Life is suffering. 2 - Suffering is caused by desire and attachment. 3 - There is an end to suffering. 4 - The way to achieve the end of suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.


The bodhisattva Maitreya, depicted in Chinese and Japanese Buddhist temples as a jolly, rotund figure often surrounded by children, will be the next Buddha in this world. He currently presides over Tushita Heaven. In East Asia, Maitreya came to be seen as a genial “laughing Buddha” during the Sung dynasty (960-1278 CE) when a lovable, portly itinerant Chan monk was identified as an incarnation of the bodhisattva.

Sakya school

Sakya is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug. The Sakya tradition was founded by Konchog Gyalpo (1034-1102), who established a monastery in the Sakya region of south-west Tibet in 1073. The principal doctrine of this school is that of “the Path and its Fruit,” which seeks to unify the different teachings of the sutras and the tantras, through a teaching of the inseparability of samsara and nirvana.

Three Treasures

(also: three treasures; three gems) The Three Treasures are the central symbols of the Buddhist tradition in which one “takes refuge” in becoming a Buddhist: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Buddha refers to Siddhartha Gautama and other enlightened ones who have awakened to the true nature of reality. Dharma means the teachings of the Buddha. Sangha designates the community of Buddhist monks and practitioners.