Suddenness Chan Glossary





Act of Prajna

Act of Buddha Wisdom


Enlightenment or awakening

Bodhisattva Vows

  1. I vow to deliver innumerable sentient beings of self-nature.
  2. I vow to dissolve endless vexations of self-nature.
  3. I vow to master limitless approaches to Dharma of self-nature.
  4. I vow to attain supreme Buddhahood of self-nature.


A person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings.

Buddha Wisdom

Buddha Wisdom has two components:

⦁ Fundamental wisdom is the function of buddha wisdom to use for yourself.

⦁ Skillful wisdom is the function of Buddha wisdom to help sentient beings.


Buddha is the state of awakening but can also refer to the historical figure Shakyamuni Buddha. Also referred to as World Honored One.

Buddhadharma (Chan Dharma)

The teaching of the Buddha

Chan Mind / Buddha Mind / Straightforward Mind / Ordinary Mind / Beginner’s Mind / Bodhi Mind / Pure Mind / Wisdom Mind / Compassion Mind / Mind of Pure Awareness of Self-nature

No Mind 無心

The Mind of non-abiding awareness

Chan Path

Buddha Path or Bodhisattva Path


Ultimate Truth when used with capital ‘D’/ Phenomena when used with small ‘d’

Eight negations of the Middle Way

  • Non-duality and Non-oneness
  • Non-arising and Non-perishing
  • Non nihilistic and Non-permanent
  • Non-coming and Non-going

Additional negations from the Heart Sutra

  • Non-impurity and Non-purity (from Heart Sutra)
  • Non-increasing and Non-decreasing (from Heart Sutra)


Insight/Awakening/Seeing into self-nature

Five Bodhi’s

Nagarjuna talked about the Diamond Sutra by using the two ways and five Bodhi’s.

  1. Bodhi of generating the vow
  2. Bodhi of taming the Mind
  3. Bodhi of insight into Mind
  4. Bodhi of departing from transformed transmigration & arriving at supreme enlightenment
  5. Ultimate Bodhi

Five kinds of eyes

1. Ordinary eye/physical eye

2. Heavenly eye

3. Wisdom eye (Arhatship)

4. Dharma eye (Boddhisattva)

5. Buddha eye

Five levels of Chan Enlightenment

  1. Recognizing Vexation
  2. Thinness of Vexation
  3. Tameness of Vexation
  4. Dissolution of Vexation
  5. Full Dissolution of Vexation

Five Levels of Lord and Vassal

Structure for describing levels of enlightenment by the Caodong school

Five precepts

1. Abstain from taking life

2. Abstain from taking what is not given

3. Abstain from sensuous misconduct

4. Abstain from false speech

5. Abstain from intoxicants as tending to cloud the mind

We follow the precept but we do not attach to anything.

Five Skandhas

The five skandhas are the division of matter and mind into five categories, which are forms (1), sensation (2), perception (3), volition (4) and consciousness (5).

Five universal mental activities

  1. Attention
  2. Contact
  3. Sensation
  4. Perception ((includes labeling, describing, comparing, analyzing, discrimination)
  5. Volition (include attachment, decision, action)

Four essential principles of Chan/Zen

  1. Suddenness Chan does not depend on words and languages
  2. Suddenness Chan is the special transmission of the Mind Dharma outside of the Dharma of teachings
  3. Suddenness Chan is pointing directly to the practitioners Mind (Dharma)
  4. Suddenness Chan is to see directly into self-nature

Four gates of Buddha Wisdom

  1. Revealing; if you can let go of your self-centered attachment in this one moment, you reveal your inherent Buddha wisdom. In one moment or in one thought.
  2. Manifesting; if in many moments you can let go of your self-centered attachment, you can manifest your Buddha wisdom. In many moments or in many thoughts.
  3. Realizing; in every thought, every moment you let go of self-centered attachment.
  4. Penetrating; In every thought you completely let go of self-centered attachment and tame the habit.

Four kinds of Bodhi Mind

  1. The Mind of Great Vow
  2. The Mind of Direct Transference
  3. The Mind of Great Wisdom
  4. The Mind of Great Compassion

Four kinds of confidence

  1. Initial confidence
  2. Confidence of comprehension
  3. Confidence of mind training
  4. Confidence of realisation (pure confidence)

Four kinds of Nirvana

  1. Nirvana of pure nature; all sentient beings including all Bodhisattva’s and Buddha’s have the inherent Nirvana of pure nature
  2. Nirvana with remainder 有餘涅槃; when Bodhisattva’s reach ultimate complete enlightenment with transmigration.
  3. Nirvana without remainder 無餘涅槃; when the effects of transmigration ended.
  4. Non-abiding Nirvana; although they enter into Nirvana, they do not stay in Nirvana; patient rest in non-arising

Four levels of Samadhi

  1. Momentary concentration (khanikasamadhi)
  2. Preliminary concentration (parikammasamadhi)
  3. Access concentration (upacarasamadhi)
  4. Absorption concentration (appanasamadhi)

Four Statements of Chan

  1. Existence (delusion) [Is]
  2. Emptiness (purity) [Is not]
  3. Existence is Emptiness [Both is and is not], non-duality
  4. No Existence, No Emptiness [Neither is or is not], non-oneness

Gateless Gate

The Way to liberation, through the method of no-method, refers to the letting go of the concept itself.


‘Koan’ in japanese. An anecdote or story to provoke insight/enlightenment

Guest Host principle

Guest host principle by Chan Master Linji Yixuan

  1. Guest amidst guest
  2. Host amidst guest
  3. Guest amidst host
  4. Host amidst host

  1. Guest amidst guest means when a Chan practitioner still has self-centered attachment and the Chan teacher has not reached deep enlightenment, they give the Chan practitioner more attachment by the teaching
  2. Host amidst guest means a Chan teacher has not seen into his self-nature or has shallow understanding, the Chan practitioner gives a shout to the teacher and the teacher cannot distinguish the state of the practitioner, therefore the teacher focuses on the state and plays a game, Chan practitioner gives a shout again and teacher cannot let go of it
  3. Guest amidst host, Chan Master has seen into self-nature and tried to snatch away delusion from practitioner, but practitioner still attaches to it
  4. Host amidst host, Chan practitioner has some level of insight and realizes state of purity and comes to see the Master, the Master can snatch away the delusion. “You are a great fellow practitioner”, the Chan Master says, “I don’t realize good or bad”, then the Chan practitioner prostrates to pay respects.

Hua Tou

A Hua Tou can be a short phrase that is used as a subject of meditation to focus the mind.


A regular kalpa is approximately 16 million years long, and a small kalpa is 1000 regular kalpas, or 16 billion years. Further, a medium kalpa is 320 billion years, the equivalent of 20 small kalpas. A great kalpa is four medium kalpas, or 1.28 trillion years.


Results of the actions driven by intention


Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (“the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) by Nagarjuna (c. 2nd century A.D.). The Diamond Sutra is called the essential part.



Mind Dharma

Realization of the Dharma (Moon). Dharma of teachings point to the Dharma (Moon).

Mind-Dharma Transmission

The transmission of understanding from Master to Student

Nagarjuna Bodhisattva

The 14th Chan Patriarch in ancient India who talked about the Diamond Sutra by using two ways and five Bodhi’s


The other shore, liberation from suffering

No Thought

When you are profoundly aware of all things with pure mind which is free from the defilements of self-centered attachment, then this is "no thought"

Ordinary Mind of non-abiding awareness

‘Ordinary Mind is the Way’ meaning, the mind that does not abide (attach) to anything.


To the other shore of emancipation

Patient rest

Able to help all sentient beings


Chan lineage holder who received Dharma transmission

Platform Sutra

The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch (Chinese: 六祖壇經; pinyin: Liùzǔ Tánjīng or simply: 壇經 Tánjīng) is a Chan Buddhist scripture that was composed in China during the 8th to 13th century


Someone’s ability to “realize” or “awaken to” the Dharma.



Pure Land

There are different kinds of pure land:

  • Buddha land
  • Amitabha Buddha
  • Medicine Buddha
  • Pure land on earth
  • Pure land of the mind
  • Pure land 3rd heaven of desire realm

3 levels of Pure Land:

  1. Realm of eternal silence and light, related to the Buddha of the Dharma Body.
  2. Realm of Buddha reward in reality and adornment (Dharma Body of the Buddha is the self-nature)
  3. Realm of skillfulness where beings have completely let go of deluded views and thoughts, related to the Transformation Body of the Buddha. Action of compassion/wisdom.


A state of meditative consciousness referred to as unification of Mind. In Buddhism, it is the last of the eight elements of the Noble Eightfold Path.


"tranquility of the mind", or "mind-calmness".

Self-nature / Original nature / True nature/ Buddha nature/ Dharma nature/ Nature of emptiness

Awakened nature / No self-nature

Sense faculties

Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind

Sense object

Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought

Silent Illumination

The Chan practice originated from the Caodong school. ‘Silent’ is samadhi and ‘Illumination’ is wisdom.

Six Paramitas

  1. Generosity
  2. Precepts (Major Bodhisattva precepts or 5 lay precepts)
  3. Endurance (patient rest)
  4. Diligence
  5. Samadhi
  6. Wisdom


  • Before the statement = before their master say/do something to help, they get enlightened.
  • At the statement = upon hearing the sentence from their master, they reached enlightenment.
  • After the statement = When helped by their master, they still not get enlightened.

Sudden Enlightenment

Sudden means to suddenly put all deluded thoughts into full rest. Enlightenment means enlightenment to non-attainment.

Suddenness Chan

Awakening is spontaneous and there is no need to practice in stages

Supreme Bodhi

Final destination of the Skillful path


A Buddhist scripture


An honorific title of a Buddha


Mind only school. Classic Mahayana Buddhadharma system. The teaching of the mind only (Tathagatagarbha) system has 2 parts:

⦁ The Buddha nature conceals the genuine Buddha

⦁ The Buddha nature manifests the genuine Buddha

Ancient Chan Masters said Chan is part of the third system (Tathagatagarbha).

Ten Ox-Herding Pictures

  1. Looking for the Ox
  2. Seeing the tracks
  3. Glimpsing the Ox
  4. Getting hold of the Ox
  5. Herding the Ox
  6. Riding the Ox home
  7. The Ox is forgotten, yet the Ox-Herder is still present
  8. Herder & Ox both forgotten
  9. Reverting to the Origin and returning to the source
  10. Entering the market with open hands

The Middle Way

Non-duality and not oneness

The Ultimate Reality of All Things

All things have interaction (interdependence and interconnectedness) and all things have non-interaction (independence). Every dharma embraces all dharmas, all realms and all of totality.

The Way

The Way to liberation.
No Mind is the Way / Ordinary Mind is the Way / Everyday activity is itself the Way.
Way with capitol “W”, in Chinese literally Dao/Tao

Three Barriers of Doushuai

Barrier means obstruction. The three barriers are:

  1. The “Initial Barrier”: “Making one’s way through weeds and investigating Chan; The purpose is only to realize one’s self-nature.”
  2. The “Multiple Barrier”: “When one has seen into one’s self-nature; One is just then able to liberate oneself from transmigration.”
  3. The “Prison Barrier”: “When one has liberated oneself from birth and death; One is able to know where to go.”

Three Bodies

  1. Dharma Body= Self-nature
  2. Reward Body= Wisdom
  3. Transformation Body = Act of compassion

Three Chan Sicknesses

  1. Abide in the mind to contemplate purity (True Mind)
  2. Abide in the mind to contemplate illusory (opposite of purity, Illusory Mind)
  3. Abide in the mind to contemplate immovability (Samadhi only)

Three kinds of almsgiving

  1. Fortune; money/charity
  2. Almsgiving of the Dharma of teachings
  3. No fear; to become free from fear

Three Levels of Chan practice

  1. Seeing mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers
    Seen from the perspective of (small)self
  2. Seeing mountains not as mountains and rivers not as rivers
    Unification of inside and outside/previous and following thought/universe
  3. Seeing mountains as mountains again and rivers as rivers
    Seen from the perspective of no-self

Three No’s (Huineng)

  1. No Thought
  2. No Form
  3. No Abiding

Three No’s

  1. No seeking for the goal; practice itself is the goal
  2. No attainment; not attaching to attainment
  3. No effort; effortless effort, no attaching to the effort

Three prerequisites to Chan practice

  1. Great Confidence
  2. Great Vow
  3. Great Determination

Three Realms

  1. Realm of desire
  2. Realm of form
  3. Realm of no form

Three stages of Silent Illumination practice

  1. Unification of mind and body
  2. Unification of mind with outer environment (inside and outside)
  3. Unification of mind with whole universe

The stages referred to here are not to be approached as gradual and don’t need to be taken one after the other.

Three systems of Mahayana Buddhadharma

  1. Madhyamaka (Name only)
    Focusses on emptiness
  2. Yogacara (Consciousness only)
    Focusses on consciousness
  3. Tathagatagarbha (Mind only)
    Focusses on Mind only


Cycle of birth and death. There are 2 kinds of transmigration, (1) sectional and (2) transformed. Sectional means bound by the cycle of birth and death, life by life, divided in sections. Transformed means when you finish the sectional and reach ultimate complete enlightenment, the Bodhisattva is not bound to the sectional transmigration anymore.

Ultimate Tathagata Chan

Suddenness Chan or Patriarch/Matriarch Chan.


The inability to understand the nature of suffering (dukkha) and its causes (the three poisons) due to our own karma/delusions.




‘Mu’ in Japanese. Used in the famous Gong’an, ‘What is Wu?’. Literal translation would be ‘no’ or ‘nothing’, but this is not pointing to the realization of the Gong’an.