Buddhist Terms: U - Z

Upasaka: (Pali) A Buddhist lay disciple. Feminine form: Upasika.

Upaya: (Sanskrit) A means, device or method; Mahayana terms for practical means to a spiritual end.

Uposatha: ‘ (Pali) ‘Observance Day’, a sacred day or ‘sabbath’, occurring every lunar fortnight. On this day, Buddhists reaffirm their Dhamma practice in terms of precepts and meditation.

Urna: (Sanskrit) The jewel or small protuberance between the eyes of a Buddha Rupa or statue representing the ‘third eye of spiritual vision’.

Uruvela: A town in Magadha where Shakyamuni attained his enlightenment and Buddhahood in the woods along the Nairanjana river.

Ushnisha (Sanskrit) The protuberance at the top of the head of a Buddha Rupa representing the flame of supreme enlightenment.

Vaibhasika: One of the Theravada philosophical schools.

Vajra: (Tibetan, dorje.) Diamond-sceptre held by certain meditational deities that represents bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment; adamantine, pure.

Vajrayana: The path of tantra.

Vedana: (Pali) Sense reaction to contact. The seventh link in the twelve nidanas, the chain of causation, producing the craving of thirst for existence.

Venerable: An honorific, title of respect for a Buddhist monk or nun.
Vesak: In Buddhist tradition it is the date not only of the Buddha’s birth, but also of his Enlightenment and death. The full moon day of the month corresponding to May in our calendar.

Vihara: (Sanskrit and Pali) A dwelling-place for the Sangha. A retreat or monastery. A state of mind. Hence the Brahma Viharas, the Brahma-like or divine states of mind.

Vijnana: (Sanskrit) Consciousness; the faculty by which one cognizes the phenomenal world.

Vimalakirti: A lay contemporary of the Buddha, whose spiritual attainment is highly regarded. He exemplifies the Mahayana model of fully realized nonmonastic practice. The Vimalakirti Sutra contains his teachings.

Vinnana: (Pali) Consciousness; the faculty by which one cognizes the phenomenal world.

Vinaya: (Pali) The monastic discipline, whose rules and traditions comprise six volumes in printed text.

Vipassana/Vipashyana: (Pali, Vipassana; Vipashyana, Sanskrit) penetrating insight into the three marks of existence ; a term often applied to the practice of meditation in some traditions.

Wat: (Thai) A temple or monastery. Wat Pa, forest monastery.

Wesak or Vesak: A lunar month corresponding to the Western April-May. The Festival at the Full Moon commemorates the Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Passing.

Wu: No; does not have; case one of the Wu-men kuan, often the first koan of the Zen student.

Yakka: In popular belief, a kind of ghost, goblin or orge.

Yaksa: The demons in the lower realm, like the Ghost Realm. They are evil, malignant and violent. They live on earth or in air.

Yama: God of the dead; sometimes, death personified.

Yana: a Sanskrit word means vehicle. A term applied to Buddhism as a means by which a practitioner cultivates on the path to enlightenment. The different vehicles correspond to views of spiritual path, that differ as to the basic attitude of the practitioner and the means of making progress on the way. There are categories of one, two, three and five vehicles.

Yasodhara: the wife of Siddhartha Gautama. She later became a nun (Bhikhuni).

Zafu: (Japanese) The cushion used for zazen or sitting meditation.

Zazen: (Japanese) Seated meditation; dhyana; Zen meditation.

Zazenkai: (Japanese) Zazen meeting; a lay Zen group.

Zen: (Japanese) Buddhist school or sect favouring meditation and intuition rather than scripture as a means to enlightenment, which passed from China to Japan in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Zendo: (Japanese) Meditation hall. The space in a monastery in which zazen is practised; it is often set aside exclusively for this purpose.

Zuise: A special empowerment ceremony currently held only at the temples of Eiheiji and Sojiji in Japan by new priests upon reaching the priestly rank.