Mahayana Buddhism

Glossary of Mahayana Buddhism


This glossary of Mahayana Buddhism provides definitions of terms related to Mahayana Buddhism, with links to full articles where available.

(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.
hungry ghost
Beings who populate the second to the lowest of the six realms of existence in Mahayana Buddhism. Usually depicted as having small mouths or necks and giant stomachs, hungry ghosts experience continual frustration and unsatisfied craving.
Nichiren Buddhism
A school of Japanese Buddhism founded by the militant Japanese Buddhist reformer Nichiren (1222-82). Nichiren, who attacked other forms of Buddhism, believed that the 'Lotus Sutra' contained the ultimate truth and asked the Japanese people to convert to true Buddhism. Today there are almost 40 sub-sects, with Nichiren Shoshu being the largest and most important.
Pure Land Buddhism
School of Buddhism supposedly founded by the Chinese monk Hui Yuan (334-417) which became one of the most popular forms of Mahayana. Pure Land Buddhism advocates devotion to the bodhisattva Amitabha, who rules over a 'pure land.' Devotion to Amitabha can ideally lead to rebirth and enlightenment in this pure land. Pure Land Buddhism spread to Japan where it broke away from the main school and goes by the name J?do.
A Japanese school of Buddhism named after Tien Tai mountain in China and the Tien Tai school of Chinese Buddhism that arose there. In 805 Tendai was introduced in Japan by Saicho at his Enryakuji temple on Mount Hiei near Kyoto. Saicho's teachings were based on the 'Lotus Sutra' and centered around his belief that all forms of life can equally attain Buddhahood. Tendai includes aspects of Shingon and Shinto.
A school of meditative Buddhism introduced to Japan in the 12th century by monks returning from China. Originating in India, it spread to China where elements of Taoism were added. Zen emphasizes simple meditation that avoids ritual as well the personal experience of enlightenment attained through a life lived close to nature. There are two main branches of Zen in Japan: Rinzai and Soto.

Article Info

Title Glossary of Mahayana Buddhism
Last UpdatedFebruary 3, 2021
MLA Citation “Glossary of Mahayana Buddhism.” 3 Feb. 2021. Web. Accessed 19 Apr. 2021. <>