A Sanskrit word used in two senses: 1) ultimate truth or absolute mind, 2) one who has awakened to the true nature of existence. A fully-developed Buddha is said to appear once in each world cycle. In our own age, this was Siddhartha Gautama, or Shakyamuni Buddha (563-483 B.C.), often referred to as the Buddha. The first of the Three Jewels.

Cloud-Water Sangha
The loose association of Sanghas led by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede and his disciples.

One-to-one instruction by a senior student (see also dokusan).

Private meditation instruction with the teacher which usually takes place during formal zazen. The student may bring up questions about sitting practice, or get a Zen perspective on problems he or she is having in any aspect of daily life.

A fundamental Buddhist term having several meanings, the broadest of which is: 1) phenomenon. All phenomena are subject to the law of causation, and this fundamental truth comprises the core of the Buddha’s teaching. Thus Dharma also means: 2) the law of the universe, 3) ultimate truth, 4) the Buddha’s teaching, and 5) the doctrines of Buddhism. The second of the Three Jewels.

Dharma Talk
A talk on some aspect of the teaching from a Zen perspective by a senior student.

Eight-Fold Noble Path
In his first discourse the Buddha set out eight aspects of the path to liberation, usually translated as follows: Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. “Right” however, is not the best translation of the original Sanskrit word samyak whose meaning is closer to “complete.”

A first awakening to one’s True Nature, usually shallow, sometimes contrasted with satori, which refers to deep enlightenment.

Walking meditation, done in between rounds of zazen.

Literally “public case.” Koans are usually brief stories about the Masters and their disciples that are employed by the Zen student as the basis for intense questioning. Since koans cannot be solved by the discursive intellect, they force the student to leap beyond him- or herself. Because of this they are a very helpful method of practice for students with a strong desire to resolve fundamental existential questions.

Refers to physical work that is done with mindfulness as a practical and simple spiritual practice. Samu might include activities such as cleaning, cooking, rubbish collection, gardening or proofreading. Samu is a way to bring mindfulness into everyday life. 

Originally the Buddhist monastic order, but more generally the community of people practicing the Buddha’s Way. The third of the Three Jewels.

Literally “one who walks ahead.” In Zen, someone who has been sanctioned to teach by his or her teacher.


Intensive meditation retreat of between two and seven days’ duration, conducted in silence, where participants engage in a highly-structured and refined schedule of sitting, chanting, teisho, dokusan, work, meals and rest. Sesshin provides an environment in which the student may go deeper into the mind than is normally possible in everyday life.

Buddhist scripture.

A Dharma discourse by a sanctioned Zen teacher.

Three Jewels
Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Also referred to as the Three Treasures, i.e. that which is valued above all else. Buddhists take refuge in The Three Jewels as follows:
  • I take refuge in Buddha, and resolve that with all beings I will understand the Great Way, whereby the Buddha-seed may forever thrive.
  • I take refuge in Dharma, and resolve that with all beings I will enter deeply into the Sutra-treasure, whereby my wisdom may grow as vast as the ocean.
  • I take refuge in Sangha, and its wisdom, example and never-failing help, and resolve to live in harmony with all sentient beings.
Three Jewels Order
The order for priests and laypeople who are committed to serving the various branches of the Cloud-Water Sangha.

Literally “old teacher.” An honorific form of address for a revered and senior teacher.

Meditation hall.