Glossary of Religion: B

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Learn the definitions of religious terms and concepts with our extensive Glossary of Religion. Choose a letter above or explore the random terms below.

B.E.
Abbreviation for "Bahá'í Era", which began with the Declaration of the Bab on May 22, 1844 (1 B.E.).
Bacchanalia
(also Dionysia) Any of several festivals of Dionysus, the wine god. Suppressed by the Roman senate in 186 BC. Bacchic cults included oaths of loyalty, organized funding, property and membership. In Greece, only women were admitted; in Rome, both were admitted and the festivities were held more often.
Baha'i
A religion that arose out of the Persian Islamic sect Babi in the 1860s. It was founded by Bahaullah who claimed to be the prophet foretold by Ali Mohammed Shirazi, the founder of the Babi sect. Bahaism emphasizes both social goals and spritual truths: the oneness of God, the unity of all faiths, the harmony of all people, universal education, obedience to government, the importance of personal conscience, and the inevitable unification of humankind.
Bahá'u'lláh
(Arabic, "Glory of God"). (1817-92) Title adopted by Mírzá Husayn-'Alí, founder of the Bahá'í Faith.
baptism
Christian rituals or sacraments that vary by denomination, but always involve the immersion of a person in water, or the application of water by pouring or sprinkling; baptisms betoken the initiation of the baptized into the church. Baptism is symbolic of moral or spiritual purification or regeneration. When the baptized is a baby, it includes the naming of the infant.
baptismal cross
Cross with eight points, symbolizing regeneration.
baptistery
A building or a part of a building containing a baptismal font and set aside for the Christian ritual of baptism. Free-standing baptisteries are usually octagonal in shape; eight is the symbolic number of salvation.
Baptists
A Protestant denomination centered around the belief that the sacrament of baptism should only be administered to adult members after a personal profession of belief in Jesus Christ. Baptism in this faith is usually done by full immersion. Emphasis is placed on biblical scripture and preaching. The Baptist denomination is primarily derived from early 17th-century England and Wales where it quickly spread although there are some links with the Anabaptists of the 16th century.
Bar Mitzvah
(Hebrew, "son of the commandment"). A boy who has reached the age of 13 and is thereafter expected to obey the commandments. Term also used for the ceremony marking this occasion.
Basic Points
(full name: "Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and Mahayana"). A Buddhist creed agreed upon by leading monks from the Theravada and Mahayana traditions in Sri Lanka in 1966, identifying the essential points of agreement.
basmala
The Bismi'llah saying, "in the Name of Allah," that invokes a blessing upon an action or undertaking of a Muslim. The full form is bismillahi (ar-)rahmani (ar-)rahim, "in the Name of Allah the merciful the compassionate."
bat mitzvah
(Hebrew, "daughter of the commandment"). A girl who has reached the age of 12 and is thereafter expected to obey the commandments. Term also used for the ceremony marking this occasion.
begging bowl
Bowl used by Buddhist monks to collect alms from laypeople; also has symbolic significance.
beit knesset
(Hebrew, "house of assembly"). The synagogue.
beit midrash
(Hebrew, "house of study"). A place designated for the study of sacred texts, usually a part of the synogogue.
beit tefilah
(Hebrew, "house of prayer"). The synagogue.
ben
(Hebrew, "son of"; Aramaic "bar" or "ibn"). Son of. Used in traditional Hebrew names; e.g., Rabbi Moses ben Maimon is Moses, the son of Maimon.
bet din
(Hebrew, "house of judgment"). A rabbinal court convened to resolve business disputes, grant divorces, determine whether a prospective convert is ready for conversion, etc.
Bhagavad-Gita
("Song of the Lord"). A section of the Mahabharata composed around 200 BCE, and one of the most beloved of Hindu texts. It tells the story of the warrior Arjuna who faces members of his own family in battle and is unsure of the right action. Arjuna is instructed by Krishna, who outlines three paths (marga) of life: knowledge, duty, and devotion.
bhakti-marga
Path of devotion to God (one of the three paths to moksha). See also jnana-marga and bhakti-marga.
bhumisparsha mudra
Buddhist hand gesture representing calling the earth to witness.
Bible story
Stories paraphrasing Biblical texts or closely based on Biblical events.
Birth of the Bab
Bahá'í holiday commemorating the birth of the Báb on October 20, 1819; one of the "Twin Holy Festivals".
bishop
The priest and spiritual leader of a diocese.
Blue Cliff Records
A collection of 100 koans first collected by Hsueh-tou Ch'ung-hsien (980-1052) from previous Ch'an records.
bodhi
(Sanskrit, Pali, "awakened"). Buddhahood; state of full enlightenment, in which things are seen as they really are.
bodhicitta
(Sanskrit, "thought of enlightenment"). An important concept in Mahayana Buddhism. In a personal sense, it signifies the spontaneous resolve to strive for enlightenment. In a cosmic sense, it is reality itself, which makes enlightenment possible. In Tantric Buddhism, it is the fusion of wisdom with compassion in the bliss of perfect enlightenment.
bodhisattva
In Mahayana Buddhism, one who attains the enlightenment of a Buddha but chooses to postpone entering nirvana and instead stays in the world for the compassionate purpose of helping lesser beings attain enlightenment. In Theravada Buddhism, the term is exclusively used to identify historical Buddhas in their previous lives.
Bon
An indigenous religion of Tibet that is, along with Buddhism, one of the two main religions of the country. Many aspects of Bon were mixed with the Buddhist traditions introduced from India in the 8th century and gave Tibetan Buddhism much of its distinctiveness. Disagreement amongst the ruling class of Tibet in the 8th and 9th centuries resulted in the noble families choosing Bon and the ruling house choosing Buddhism.
bonpu
(Japanese, "ordinary man"). In Zen, an expression used for the ordinary person as opposed to one who is enlightened or on the religious path.
Brahamanas
("Pertaining to Brahmins"). Portion of the Vedas, written between 1000 and 650 BCE, that explain mantras and provide further ritual instruction.
Brahma
Post-Vedic personal Creator god of the Hindu trinity (with Vishnu and Shiva). Usually represented as red in color and holding a goblet, a bow, a scepter, and the Vedas. Unlike Vishnu and Shiva, Brahma is seldom worshipped today.
Brahman
("growth, expansion"). The impersonal Absolute, the unproduced Producer of all that is. In the Vedas, Brahman is the force behind the magical formulas. In the Upanishads it is the supreme, eternal principle behind the origin of the universe and of the gods. In Vedanta philosophy, it is the Self (atman) of all beings and knowledge of Brahman results in liberation (moksha).
breviary
Book containing the Divine Office (liturgy) of the Roman Catholic Church.
bris
(Hebrew brit, "covenant"). Colloquial name for the ritual of circumcision, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of brit.
brit
(Hebrew, "covenant"). The special covenant between God and the Jewish people.
brit milah
(Hebrew, "covenant of circumcision"). The ritual of circumcision performed on the eighth day of a boy's life. More commonly known as brit.
budded cross
Cross with trefoils representing the Trinity.
buddha
(Sanskrit, Pali, "Awakened One") A fully enlightened being.
buddha-dharma
Teaching of the Buddha. Another name for Buddhism.
buddha-nature
(Sanskrit buddhata; Japanese bussho). In Mahayana Buddhism, the true nature of all appearances and all beings. To truly realize one's participation in the buddha-nature is to attain enlightenment.
buddha-sasana
Buddha-discipline; another name for Buddhism.
Buddhas of the three times
The buddhas of the past. Their numbers are incalculable, but the best-known is Dipamkara, present (Gautama), and future (Maitreya).
Buddhism
Philosophy and religion based on the enlightenment and teachings of the Buddha Gautama in the early 6th century BCE in the northeastern region of modern India.
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Article Info

Title Glossary of Religion: B
Published
Last UpdatedFebruary 13, 2021
URL religionfacts.com/glossary/b
Short URLrlft.co/3494
MLA Citation “Glossary of Religion: B.” ReligionFacts.com. 13 Feb. 2021. Web. Accessed 11 May. 2021. <religionfacts.com/glossary/b>