sources: wiki and Gods of Japan

Japanese Gods and Goddesses

Aizen-Myoo God of love, especially worshiped by prostitutes, landlords, singers and musicians. He has a third eye above his other eyes on his forehead and a lion's head in his hair.

Aji-Suki-Taka-Hi-Kone God of thunder. To quiet him as a child, the gods carried him up and down a ladder, explaining the approaching and receding sound of thunder.

Ama-No-Minaka-Nushi 'Divine Lord of the Middle Heavens' and god of the Pole Star.

Amaterasu Shinto goddess of the sun and the leader of the Shinto pantheon. She was known as 'shining heaven' and the Japanese Emperors claimed to be descended from her.

Amatsu Mikaboshi God of evil, his name means "August Star of Heaven".

Amatsu-Kami Gods of heaven who live 'above' the earthly plain. They are heavenly and eternal.

Ama-Tsu-Mara Shinto god of smiths. He is pictured as a cyclops.

Ame-No-Mi-Kumari Shinto water goddess.

Ame-No-Wakahiko God sent to rule the earth. Killed by the sky god Takami-Musubi.

Amida God of death, to whom the devout turned at the moment of their death. His realm was beautiful, full of ambrosia trees, gentle breezes and lovely birds.

Am-No-Tanabata-Hime Goddess of weavers.

Baku A good spirit, known as the 'eater of dreams'. He brings good fortune by eating the nightmares of those who call on him. Seen as a creature with a lion's head, tiger's feet and a horse's body.

Benten Goddess of love, the arts, wisdom, poetry, good fortune and water. Originally a sea deity, she became the patroness of the rich and the arts. She is seen as a beautiful woman riding a dragon. In her eight hands she holds a sword, a jewel, a bow, an arrow, a wheel and a key. Her other two arms are folded in prayer.

Benzai-Ten See Benten.

Bimbogami God of poverty. Rituals are performed to get rid of him.

Binzuru-Sonja God of curing illness and good vision.

Bishamon God of war, justice and protector of the law. He is one of the Shichi Fukujin and is portrayed in full armor, standing on demons and holding a spear in his hand.

Bosatsu Manifestation of the Buddha in the past, present or future. See bodhisattva.

Butsu See Buddha.

Chien-shin A kami which is related to particular geographical area, and protects those living in the area.

Chimata-no-kami God of crossroads, highways and footpaths. He was originally a phallic god, and phallic symbols are often associated with him and with crossroads.

Chup-Kamui Sun goddess of the Ainu. She was originally the moon goddess, but after one night of watching the adulterous behaviors of the people below, she begged the sun god to trade places with her.

Daibosatsu The Great bodhisattva or the Buddha in his last incarnation.

Daikoku God of wealth, the soil and patron of farmers. He is seen as a large, happy man seated on two bags of rice with a bag of jewels over his shoulder.

Dainichi Buddhist personification of purity and wisdom.

Dosojin God of roads.

Dozoku-shin Ancestral kami of a dozoku, or clan. The worship of the Dozoku-shin is carried out by the main family of the clan.

Ebisu God of the wealth of the sea, he is the patron god of fishermen and fishing. He is pictured holding a fish and a fishing pole. Anything washed up on the shore could be Ebisu, including a corpse.

Ekibiogami God of plagues and epidemics.

Emma-o Japanese Buddhist god of the underworld. He is the judge of the dead, and decides on the punishment of evildoers based on Buddha's Law.

Fudo God of fire and wisdom, he is the patron protector of the people and the god of Astrology. Seen as an ugly old man surrounded by fire, with a sword in one hand and a rope in the other.

Fujin Shinto god of the wind. Seen as a terrifying dark demon in a leopard skin, with a bag of winds over his shoulder.

Fukurokuju Shinto god of wisdom, luck and prosperity.

Funadama The boat-spirit, she is a goddess who protects and helps mariners and fishermen.

Futsu-Nushi-no-Kami God of fire and lightning, later became a war god and general of Ameratsu. Gama God of longevity. Seen as a cheerful old man riding a stag and holding a scroll full of secret wisdom.

Gekka-o God of marriage. He binds the feet of lovers with a red silken cord.

Hachiman God of war and agriculture, and the divine protector of the Japanese people.

Haniyasu-hiko God of the earth.

Haniyasu-hime Goddess of the earth.

Haya-Ji God of the whirlwind.

Hiruko God of the morning sun. Guards the health of little children.

Hoso-no-Kami God of smallpox.

Hotei God of happiness, laughter and the wisdom of being content. Seen as a jolly fat man carrying a linen bag full of precious things, including children. He is the protector of the weak and small children.

Ida-Ten Buddhist god of the law and of monasteries. Seen as a handsome young man.

Ika-Zuchi-no-Kami Group of even Shinto demons who reside in the Underworld. Their rumblings can be heard during volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Iki-Ryo The spirit of anger and envy which harms.

Inari Both a male and female deity, Inari is the god/goddess of rice and agriculture.

Isora God of the seashore.

Izanagi Primordial god of the sky and the creator of everything good and right. With his wife Izanami he created the first of the Japanese islands.

Izanami Primordial goddess of the earth and darkness. With her husband Izangi she helped create the first of the Japanese islands. Died in childbirth and became goddess of the Underworld and the dead.

Jinushigami Minor deity who watches over a town or plot of land.

Jizo Japanese Buddha of great compassion. He is the protector of pregnant women, children, and travelers. Identical to the Indian god Kshitigarbha.

Juichimen Buddhist god of mercy.

Jurojin Shinto god of longevity and a happy old age. He is one of the Shichi Fukujin, the seven gods of luck.

Kagutsuchi Japanese god of fire.

Kamado-gami Gods of the hearth.

Kami-kaze God of wind, storms and viscous cold weather.

Kaminari Goddess of thunder, known as the Thunder Queen and the Heavenly Noise.

Kanayama-hiko God of metals.

Kanayama-hime Goddess of metals.

Kawa-no-Kami God of rivers. Although many rivers had their own god, he was the ruler of all rivers.

Kenro-Ji-Jin God of earth.

Kishi-Bojin Goddess of children and childbirth, it is to Kishi-Bojin that women pray for children.

Kishijoten Goddess of luck and beauty, she is the patron of song and dance and protector of the Geishas.

Kishimo-jin Buddhist goddess of compassion and protectoress of children.

Kojin Ancient tree deity and goddess of the kitchen. She lives in an enoki tree.

Ko-no-Hana The Blossom Princess, she is the goddess of spring and the one who makes the flowers blossom.

Koshin God of the roads.

Koya-no-Myoin God of the sacred Mount Koya. Seen as a hunter with a red face and two hounds.

Kukunochi-no-Kami Shinto god of the trees.

Kuni-Toko-tachi Earth deity who lives in Mt. Fuji.

Kura-Okami God of rain and snow.

Marisha-Ten Queen of heaven, goddess of the light, sun and moon.

Mawaya-no-kami Kami, or deity of the toilet. Occasionally invoked to help with gynecological diseases or ailments of the eyes and teeth.

Miro Japanese name for Maitreya.

Miyazu-Hime Goddess of royalty.

Monju-Bosatsu Japanese Buddhist bosatsu of wisdom and knowledge.

Musubi-no-Kami God of love and marriage. Appears as a handsome (and ardent) young lover.

Nai-no-Kami God of earthquakes.

Naka-Yama-Tsu-Mi God of mountain slopes.

Nikko-Bosatsu Buddhist god of sunshine and good health.

Ninigi-no-mikoto Rice god and ancestral god of the Japanese imperial family.

Nominosukune God of wrestling.

Nyorai Japanese name for all of the Buddha's appearances.

Oanomochi God of the crater of Mt. Fuji.

Ohonamochi A god of the earth.

Oho-Yama The great mountain god.

Okuni-Nushi God of majic and medicine, he is the ruler of the unseen things and the spirit world.

Owatatsumi God of the sea.

Oyamatsumi A god of the mountains.

Raiden God of thunder and lightning. He is pictured as a red demon with sharp claws and carrying a large drum.

Ryo-Wo God of the sea. known as the Dragon King.

Sae-no-Kami A group of kami, or deities, who guard the roads of Japan.

Sambo-kojin God of the kitchen. He is pictured with three faces and two pairs of hands.

Sarutahiko Ohkami God of crossroads, paths and overcoming obstacles. He is pictured as a huge man with a large beard and a jeweled spear, with holy light shining from his eyes, mouth and posterior. He is the chief of the kami on earth.

Sengen See Ko-no-Hana.

Shaka The silent sage, the wisest and first appearance of Buddha on earth. Shaka corresponds with the Hindu Shakyamuni

Shichi Fujukin The Seven Gods of Luck, they are: Benten, Bishamon, Daikoku, Ebisu, Fukurokuju, Hotei and Jurojin.

Shinda Ainu fertility god of the island of Hokkaido.

Shine-Tsu-Hiko God of the wind, he fills the space between heaven and earth.

Shoden See Ganesha.

Shoki God of the afterlife and exorcism.

Suijin Deity of the water.

Suitengu Child god of the sea.

Sukuna-Biko Dwarf god of healing, agriculture and hot springs.

Susanowa God of the winds, storms, ocean and snakes in Shinto mythology. He is the brother and consort of Ameratsu.

Takami-Musubi Primordial sky god and creator of living things in Shinto belief.

Takemikadzuchi A thunder god.

Taki-Tsu-Hiko God of rain.

Tatsuta-hime Goddess of autumn.

Tenjin God of learning, language and calligraphy. He taught humans to write.

Toyo-Uke-Bime Goddess of earth, food and agriculture.

Toyouke-Omikami Goddess of grain.

Tsuki-Yumi God of the moon and brother of the sun goddess Ameratsu.

Uba Spirit of the pine tree. Means 'old woman' or 'wet nurse'.

Uga-Jin Serpent god of the waters and fertility of the earth.

Uga-no-Mitama Goddess of agriculture.

Ukemochi Goddess of fertility and food.

Uzume Shinto goddess of joy and happiness.

Wakahiru-me Goddess of the rising sun.

Wata-tsu-mi God of the sea.

Yabune Japanese house god.

Yama-no-kami Goddess of the hunt, forest, agriculture and vegetation.

Yamato The soul or spirit of Japan.

Yuki-Onna The Snow Queen or goddess of winter.

Shinto creation stories tell of the history and lives of the "Kami" (deities). Among them was a divine couple, Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto, who gave birth to the Japanese islands. Their children became the deities of the various Japanese clans. Amaterasu Omikami (Sun Goddess) was one of their daughters. She is the ancestress of the Imperial Family and is regarded as the chief deity. Her shrine is at Ise. Her descendants unified the country. Her brother, Susano came down from heaven and roamed throughout the earth. He is famous for killing a great evil serpent.

The Kami are the Shinto deities. The word "Kami" is generally translated "god" or "gods." However, the Kami bear little resemblance to the gods of monotheistic religions. There are no concepts which compare to the Christian beliefs in the wrath of God, his omnipotence and omni-presence, or the separation of God from humanity due to sin. There are numerous other deities who are conceptualized in many forms: Those related to natural objects and creatures, from "food to rivers to rocks."

Guardian Kami of particular areas and clans Exceptional people, including all but the last of the emperors.

Abstract creative forces

Their religious texts discuss the "High Plain of Heaven" and the "Dark Land" which is an unclean land of the dead, but give few details of the afterlife. Ancestors are deeply revered and worshipped. All of humanity is regarded as "Kami's child." Thus all human life and human nature is sacred. Believers revere "musuhi", the Kamis' creative and harmonizing powers. They aspire to have "makoto", sincerity or true heart. This is regarded as the way or will of Kami.

Morality is based upon that which is of benefit to the group. "Shinto emphasizes right practice, sensibility, and attitude."

There are "Four Affirmations"in Shinto:

1. Tradition and the family: The family is seen as the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved. Their main celebrations relate to birth and marriage.

2. Love of nature: Nature is sacred; to be in contact with nature is to be close to the Gods. Natural objects are worshipped as sacred spirits.

3. Physical cleanliness: Followers of Shinto take baths, wash their hands, and rinse out their mouth often.

4. "Matsuri": The worship and honor given to the Kami and ancestral spirits.

Shinto recognizes many sacred places: mountains, springs, etc.

Each shrine is dedicated to a specific Kami who has a divine personality and responds to sincere prayers of the faithful. When entering a shrine, one passes through a Tori a special gateway for the Gods. It marks the demarcation between the finite world and the infinite world of the Gods.

In the past, believers practiced "misogi,", the washing of their bodies in a river near the shrine. In recent years they only wash their hands and wash out their mouths in a wash basin provided within the shrine grounds.

Believers respect animals as messengers of the Gods. A pair of statues of "Koma-inu" (guard dogs) face each other within the temple grounds.

Shrine ceremonies, which include cleansing, offerings, prayers, and dances are directed to the Kami.

Kagura are ritual dances accompanied by ancient musical instruments. The dances are performed by skilled and trained dancers. They consist of young virgin girls, a group of men, or a single man. Mamori are charms worn as an aid in healing and protection. They come in many different forms for various purposes.

An altar, the "Kami-dana" (Shelf of Gods), is given a central place in many homes.

Forms of Shinto:

Shinto exists in four main forms or traditions: Koshitsu Shinto (The Shinto of the Imperial House): This involves rituals performed by the emperor, who the Japanese Constitution defines to be the "symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." The most important ritual is Niinamesai, which makes an offering to the deities of the first fruits of each year's grain harvest. Male and female clergy (Shoten and Nai-Shoten) assist the emperor in the performance of these rites.

Jinja (Shrine) Shinto: This is the largest Shinto group. It was the original form of the religion; its roots date back into pre-history. Until the end of World War II, it was closely aligned with State Shinto. The Emperor of Japan was worshipped as a living God. Almost all shrines in Japan are members of Jinja Honcho, the Association of Shinto Shrines. It currently includes about 80,000 shrines as members. The association urges followers of Shinto

1. "To be grateful for the blessings of Kami and the benefits of the ancestors, and to be diligent in the observance of the Shinto rites, applying oneself to them with sincerity, brightness, and purity of heart."

2. "To be helpful to others and in the world at large through deeds of service without thought of rewards, and to seek the advancement of the world as one whose life mediates the will of Kami."

3. "To bind oneself with others in harmonious acknowledgment of the will of the emperor, praying that the country may flourish and that other peoples too may live in peace and prosperity."

Kyoha (Sectarian) Shinto (aka Shuha Shinto): This consists of 13 sects which were founded by individuals since the start of the 19th century. Each sect has its own beliefs and doctrines. Most emphasize worship of their own central deity; some follow a near-monotheistic religion.

Minzoku (Folk) Shinto This is not a separate Shinto group; it has no formal central organization or creed. It is seen in local rural practices and rituals, e.g. small images by the side of the road, agriculture rituals practiced by individual families, etc. A rural community will often select a layman annually, who will be responsible for worshiping the local deity.


Adibuddha: A concept in Mahayana Buddhism of an eternal Buddha with no beginning and with no end. He is self-created and originally revealed himself in the form of a blue flame coming out of a lotus. Over time this symbol became personified in the form of the Adibuddha.

Amrita / Amarit: Translated as the elixir of the Gods, from original Hindu mythology of a drink that could bestow Immortality.

Animal Realm: In Buddhist cosmology, one of the six realms of existence, where the mind is consumed by survival.

Arhat: One who has achieved personal liberation from the endless cycle of birth and rebirth. Asuras (male) / Asuris (female): Also referred to as Titans, they are originally from Hindu mythology where they are lesser gods who strive to overcome the power of the deities. In Buddhism, they are a symbolic manifestation of the ego, representing certain states of mind.

Bodhi: Meaning to be enlightened or awakened. To have knowledge of the ultimate reality.

Bodhisattva: A being who has achieved awakening and has chosen to reincarnate so as to help alleviate the suffering of all beings. Generally thought of as waiting to achieve nirvana until all other beings have reached enlightenment. Kuan Yin is one of the most well-loved Bodhisattva.

Buddha: Most commonly used in English to refer to Shakyamuni Buddha, who was born Prince Siddhartha.

Chakra: In Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism, they are considered energy points in the body. However, the word also has its roots in the word for cosmos.

Daka (male) / Dakinis (female): Divine wrathful beings that in Tantric Buddhism are believed to be intermediaries between practitioners and the transcendental Buddhas.

Deva (male) / Devi (female): Originally from Hinduism Deva is a god. In Buddhism, they are still subject to the endless cycle of existence.

Dharma: Often translated as either the Truth, or the teachings of the Buddha. In particular, this refers to the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path.

Dhyani (or Meditation) Buddhas: They are emanations of Adibuddha and serve as the meditation Buddhas. These are five images of the Buddha in meditation, and are considered as different aspects of Buddhahood. In Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, they have evolved into five "families" representing different cosmic elements and being guardians of five different directions (North, South, East, West, and Center).

Dorje: Tibetan pronunciation of the word Vajra.

Eightfold Path: This is the path preached by the Buddha as the way to escape from anguish and suffering. The eight qualities are right understanding or view (based on understanding the Four Noble Truths), right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

Enlightenment: This has been translated as understanding the ultimate reality and escaping the endless cycle of existence and rebirth. It is the point where perfect wisdom and perfect compassion reach balance.

Five Poisons: They are five harmful qualities that are normal to most beings, namely ignorance, hatred, pride, craving and envy.

Four Noble Truths: One of the basic concepts in all schools of Buddhism, they are the truth that suffering arises from impermanence; The truth that ignorance is the attachment to impermanent objects; The truth that suffering can be overcome by developing an understanding of the ultimate reality; The truth that the Eightfold Path is the way to achieve this understanding and liberation from suffering.

Gelupka: This is a Tibetan lineage of Buddhism, headed by the Dalai Lama. It is the largest of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

God Realm: Literally, it is the universe where the gods dwell, but in Buddhist thought it is a symbol for a heavenly state of mind.

Hinayana: Literally meaning lesser of smaller cart, it is a word describing Theravada Buddhism.

Human Realm: Literally being the world where humans dwell, it is a symbol of the mindstate where one has achieved a balance of compassion and awareness. It is thus considered a main gate on the path to enlightenment.

Hungry Ghosts: Another one of the six worlds, where the pretans dwell. They are beings with a huge stomach and a pin hole for a mouth, and thus are unable to consume enough to satisfy their hunger or cravings.

Karma: Karma is usually translated as the law of cause and effect. That we suffer at present because of past harmful or spiteful actions. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. When taking actions, it is best to look at what effect this will have on others, and why is it that we are taking these actions.

Lama: In Tibetan Buddhism, considered a master of certain areas of Buddhism. May be the head of one or more monasteries.

Mahayana: Literally meaning the "Great Vehicle," it is the school of Buddhism that is prominent in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and East Asia. It has incorporated many of the areas original religious beliefs with the original Theravada beliefs. This school emphasizes the path of the Bodhisattva. Vajrayana is a later developed branch of Mahayana.

Mandala: Used as a point of concentration in Tantric Buddhism, is usually a painted circular diagram or sacred circle which represents the unfolding of the cosmos.

Mantra: Sometimes translated as a chant, it is the repeating of phrases or words to help one concentrate and achieve focus.

Mudra: Buddhist and Hindu images all have particular hand gestures, and these hand gestures have specific meanings. For instance, the right hand of Shakyamuni Buddha reaching down is known as Calling the Earth to Witness.

Nagas: In Hinduism, they were known as gods of rain and fertility, in Buddhism, they became seen as protectors. For example, there is a story of when the Buddha was meditating and it began to rain. A Naga came up behind the Buddha and unfolded its seven-headed hood over the Buddha so the rain would not disturb him. Images of Nagas are commonly seen decorating temple staircase and roofs (probably because the roofs are wood and susceptible to fire, and Nagas were traditionally thought to bring rain).

Nirvana: Considered as the goal of Theravada Buddhist practice, it is the liberation from suffering and departure from the endless cyclic existence.

Nyingmapa: Meaning the "Ancient Ones" it is the oldest of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Prajnaparamita: In certain Buddhist texts, they deal with the understanding of the "Perfection of Wisdom."

Rimpoche: In Tibetan Buddhism, it means a Precious One. It is the title of a highly adept Buddhist practitioner.

Rupa: The word literally means form, but is commonly used to refer to Buddhist and Hindu statues.

Samadhi: This word generally means a type of insight gained through either meditation or wisdom. In Thai, the word refers to mediation in general.

Samsara: This means the endless cycle of existence in the impermanent world. It is the goal of Buddhism to escape Samsara.

Sangha: The monkshood as founded by the Buddha.

Skandas: These are the five main aspects of the human psyche or personality. Namely, they are form, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness.

Stupa: In Buddhist temples, the Stupa is a structure built to house sacred relics.

Sutra: These are basically written teachings, such as the Lotus Sutra or the Karma Sutra.

Tantra: In Buddhism, Tantra generally refers the Vajrayana school. This school relies more heavily on the practice of yoga, mantras, rituals and visualizations of deities.

Thangkas /Thankas: These are Buddhist paintings that can be rolled up and transported from place to place. Nomads in the Tibetan plateaus favored them, since they could be carried easily. They generally feature paintings of Buddhist deities or Buddhist symbols.

Theraveda: Literally meaning "Path of the Elders," This is the original Buddhist school and remains closest to the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Pali Canon. The focus of Theravada Buddhism is on individual liberation and concentration on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. This school of Buddhism is found predominantly in Southeast Asia. Transcendental Buddhas: They are emanations of Adibuddha and serve as the meditation Buddhas. These are five images of the Buddha in meditation, and are considered as different aspects of Buddhahood. In Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, they have evolved into five "families" representing different cosmic elements and being guardians of five different directions (North, South, East, West, and Center).

Vajra (Dorje in Tibetan): Often translated as a diamond or as a thunderbolt, it is a symbol used in ritual or found in the hands of various Mahayana deities. They represent either the clear insight (such as a lightning bolt cutting through a darkened sky), or pure understanding (such as the clarity of a diamond).

Vajrayana: Also referred to as Tantric Buddhism, it literally means The Diamond Vehicle and is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism.

Vipassana: This is a form of meditation known as insight meditation, and is considered key to enlightenment by Theravada Buddhists.

Yoga: The English word "Yoke" is derived from this word, and its meaning is "Union" or being connected to something. The understanding is that it is the integration of personal experience into wisdom, both from physical and meditative practices.

Zen: This is one school of the Mahayana branch of Buddhism. It developed in China (where it was known as Chan Buddhism), and spread into Japan and Korea. It has incorporated several ideas from Taoism.

Avatar: An incarnation of a god on earth, usually in human, but sometimes in animal form. Vishnu is known for having ten incarnations, the most widely known being Rama, Krishna, and the Buddha (in Hindu mythology).

Bhooloka: The earth, and one of the three lokas.

Boon: A wish usually granted by a god to any person. However, in Thai, the word boon means merit, as in the word "tham-boon" (making merit).

Brahmana: A member of the preaching and praying class of humans. The highest group in Hindu caste, they are called upon to perform rituals. In Thailand, while a Buddhist country, many of the royal ceremonies require Hindu rituals performed by the small group of Brahmana living in Bangkok. (Pronounced as Phrom in Thai.)

Deva, Devataa: The masculine form of the word god or immortal. (Pronounced Tay-wa-da in Thai.)

Dharma: Often translated as the Truth or the Laws of Nature.

Kshatriya: A member of the warrior class of human beings. Most of the rulers and kings are from this class.

Manav: A term for human beings. Believed to be the first human created by God. (Pronounced Ma-noot in Thai.)

Paatal: Also termed as nether world, it is the underground world and is one of the three lokas.

Rishi: Also termed as Sadhu, stands for an ascetic who is supposed to be above worldly pleasures. They possess great powers due to their extreme asceticism. They stay in deep forests and are in constant meditation. (Pronounced as Reu-See in Thai).

Shaap: A synonym for a curse, which comes true.

Swarga: A synonym for heaven, one of the three lokas or worlds. (Pronounced as Sawan in Thai.)

Vedas: The ancient scriptures of Hinduism written in four major volumes. They are the source of the majority of Hindu belief. The Vedas were the beliefs of the Indo-Aryan tribes that settled into India, supplanting much of the traditional culture.

Buddha Buddha is the past participle of Sanskrit buddh (to awaken, to know), and is translated as "one who has awakened to the truth." Buddha is not a personal name. It is an honorific term, like messiah or christ (the anointed one).

Tathagata (See "Nyorai" below for more) Another Sanskrit term for Buddha, translated either "thus come" or "thus gone." One of the ten epithets (ten honorable titles) of the Buddha. The nuances are (1) Tathagata is a spiritual principle, not a historical person; (2) implies that path followed by the Historical Buddha to attain enlightenment is open to all sentient beings; (3) means "coming from the origin."

This Sino-Japanese compound word comes from the Sanskrit Tathagata. Tatha means "thusness" (the original condition), while Gata means either going or coming. The Chinese stressed the sense of "coming," as did the Japanese. In Japanese, the term Tatha is also translated as Shinnyo , meaning intrinsic thusness. This latter term is used to represent the world of enlightenment, the world of Absolute Truth. The term Tathagata is thus translated directly as "one thus gone" or "one thus come." But in Japan, the term Nyorai may be more fully translated as "one who has come from the world of absolute truth to save all beings." For all practical purposes, the words Buddha, Tathagata, and Nyorai are synonymous in modern English usage. Each is an honorific title given to those who have attained enlightenment.

The Chinese translated the Sanskrit Buddha into "butsu" and "da" . When the two-character Chinese term was transmitted to Japan, the first character only was used. It can be read as either "butsu" or "hotoke," but it is written with the same character. Both readings mean Buddha.

Ten Epithets, Ten Honorable Titles, of the Buddha Sanskrit term followed by English meaning followed by Japanese reading and ideogram.

* Tathagata; Thus-Come, Thus Gone; Nyorai

* Arhat; Worthy of Respect; Ougu

* Samyak-sambuddha; Correctly Enlightened; Shohenchi

* Vidya-carana-sampanna; Perfected in Wisdom & Action; Myogyosoku

* Sugata; Well-Gone; Zenzei

* Lokavid; Knower of the Secular World; Sekenge

* Anuttara; Unsurpassed; Mujoji

* Purusadamya-saratha; The Tamer; Jogojobu

* Sastadevamanusyanam; Teacher of Gods and Men; Tenninshi

* Bhagavan; World Honored One; Butsu-seson

As Buddhism expanded across Asia, it evolved into two main forms, which evolved largely independently from each other:

Theravada Buddhism (sometimes called Southern Buddhism; occasionally spelled Therevada) "has been the dominant school of Buddhism in most of Southeast Asia since the thirteenth century, with the establishment of the monarchies in Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Laos."

Mahayana Buddhism (sometimes called Northern Buddhism) is largely found in China, Japan, Korea, Tibet and Mongolia.

To which might be added:

Tibetan Buddhism, which developed in isolation from Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism because of the isolation of Tibet.

Since the late 19th century:

Modern Buddhism has emerged as a truly international movement. It started as an attempt to produce a single form of Buddhism, without local accretions, that all Buddhists could embrace.

The Three Trainings or Practices: These three consist of:

1. Sila: Virtue, good conduct, morality. This is based on two fundamental principles:

The principle of equality: that all living entities are equal.

The principle of reciprocity: This is the "Golden Rule" in Christianity -- to do onto others as you would wish them do onto you. It is found in all major religions.

2. Samadhi: Concentration, meditation, mental development. Developing one's mind is the path to wisdom which in turn leads to personal freedom. Mental development also strengthens and controls our mind; this helps us maintain good conduct.

3. Prajna: Discernment, insight, wisdom, enlightenment. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.

The Four Noble Truths:

The Buddha's Four Noble Truths explore human suffering. They may be described (somewhat simplistically) as:

1. Dukkha: The reality and universality of suffering. Suffering has many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, the impermanence of pleasure.

2. Samudaya: The cause of suffering is a desire to have and control things. It can take many forms: craving of sensual pleasures; the desire for fame; the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy.

3. Nirodha: Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana (a.k.a. Nibbana). The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving.

4. Magga: The eightfold path leads to the cessation of suffering The Five Precepts:

These are rules to live by. They are somewhat analogous to the second half of the Ten Commandments in Judaism and Christianity -- that part of the Decalogue which describes behaviors to avoid.

1. Do not kill. This is sometimes translated as "not harming" or an absence of violence.

2. Do not steal. This is generally interpreted as including the avoidance of fraud and economic exploitation.

3. Do not lie. This is sometimes interpreted as including name calling, gossip, etc.

4. Do not misuse sex. For monks and nuns, this means any departure from complete celibacy. For the laity, adultery is forbidden, along with any sexual harassment or exploitation, including that within marriage. The Buddha did not discuss consensual premarital sex within a committed relationship; Buddhist traditions differ on this.

5. Do not consume alcohol or other drugs. The main concern here is that intoxicants cloud the mind. Some have included as a drug other methods of divorcing ourselves from reality -- e.g. movies, television, the Internet.

The Eightfold Path:

The Buddha's Eightfold Path consists of:

Panna: Discernment, wisdom:

1) Samma ditthi Right Understanding of the Four Noble Truths

2) Samma sankappa: Right thinking; following the right path in life Sila: Virtue, morality:

3) Samma vaca: Right speech: no lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language

4) Samma kammanta Right conduct by following the Five Precepts

5) Samma ajiva: Right livelihood; support yourself without harming others Samadhi: Concentration, meditation:

6) Samma vayama Right Effort: promote good thoughts; conquer evil thoughts

7) Samma sati Right Mindfulness: Become aware of your body, mind and feelings

8) Samma samadhi Right Concentration: Meditate to achieve a higher state of consciousness

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