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Thread: Online reference for Japanese Buddhist terminology?

  1. #1

    Online reference for Japanese Buddhist terminology?


    My name is Chris and I'm new to the community here. I live in Nagano prefecture in central Japan. I've been sitting on and off for a number of years and am excited to see what everyone is doing with the online sangha here!

    So, as the title of this post says, I'm seeking an online reference/ dictionary with English renditions of Japanese Buddhist terms (but working from Japanese script). I'm working on a Japanese to English translation that uses a fair amount of Soto Zen terminology. Occasionally there are simple terms like 習禅、but more frequently I'm dealing with quotes from Dogen or phrases like 無所得無所悟。Understanding the meaning is usually no problem, and of course I can come up with my own translations. There may well not be "standard" translations for many of the terms, but it's still useful to compare my takes with what others have done. For certain things a Google search works, but for others nothing really comes up. Doing that I often have to cross-reference between the Japanese Shobogenzo and the English (I've started using the Nishihima-Cross adaptation on Cohen-sensei's recommendation). This works but is a huge time consumer as the terms aren't referenced in the original text I'm working from and searching for their sources is not always as straight forward as I'd assumed. I've also tried using the dictionary at, but that typically comes back with nothing.

    Any ideas on how to approach this would be so greatly appreciated. In return for your kind assistance, I'll give the forum here a shout out once the book is finally published. Also, if there's another forum here that would be more appropriate for this post, please let me know.

    Thank you in advance.



  2. #2
    Hi Chris,

    I use several items, but find Google and comparisons of several noted writers and respected translators the best "dictionary" these days.

    But let me run it by Steve Heine, Jeffrey Kotyk and another scholar buddy. I will be back to you.

    Gassho, Jundo


    PS - Around here, we like to say that we are not simply an "Online Sangha" ... just a Sangha.

  3. #3
    First response, from Jeff (now in Taiwan) ...

    I note that these are not really cheap nor online ...

    Hi Jundo

    There's really no standard vocabulary yet for a lot of Zen materials, especially anything from Dogen's time which is really complicated being a mix of Japanese and Chinese items. However, there is following resource:

    Yo - The Japanese-English Zen Buddhist Dictionary. Yūhō Yokoi. Tokyo: Sankibo Busshorin 山喜房仏書林, 1991
    In Japanese: 横井 雄峯 (1918-)「日英禅語辞典」山喜房仏書林 1991-3

    There's used copies of it through Amazon it looks like, and not too expensive.

    Incidentally, the very best resource available in Japanese for Zen terms is the 禅学大辞典 from Komazawa University:

    There's also this one for grammatical vocabulary:

    These two are basically what the profs and students at Komazawa use when reading texts.
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-12-2014 at 05:43 AM.

  4. #4
    Steve Heine said this, probably meaning this book ...

    There are a couple of specialized Dogen dictionaries

    in Japanese - the ones I remember are older ones (70s, 80s) and I would have to check on the

    authors (one was Azuma Ryoshin, if I recall), plus they are not likely to be in digital form and they probably emphasized "about Dogen" (that is, history, biography) rather than terminology from his works, although some of that was included.
    But I have to add that one need not "nail down" terminology in this "Way Beyond Words and Letters", especially in this Soto Tradition whose founder, Dogen, was the master of the fluid and changing meaning, wild word play, double and triple entendre and such. Prof. Kim has some excellent writing on Dogen's creative and meaning-being-bending use of language.

    How to Read Dogen

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 12-13-2014 at 04:53 PM.

  5. #5
    Thank you so much Jundo for your feedback. These posts have been extremely helpful. The advice about not needing to ""nail down" terminology in this "Way Beyond Words and Letters"" fits my situation perfectly. With that in mind, and the resources available, I'll see what I can do!

    Again, I really appreciate the advice. What a great community!



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