Introducing World Religions:
The eBook

Introducing World Religions Online:
Comprehensive Glossary of Terms

Term Definition


Islamic caliphate that ruled from Baghdad, Iraq from 750-1258, claiming descent from one of Prophet Muḥammad's uncles.


(1844-1921) Son and successor of Bahá’u’lláh; he is not considered as a Manifestation of God, though his writings are considered as infallible.

Abodes of Brahmā

Four levels of meditation (dhyāna) in saṃsāra's realm of pure form according to Buddhist cosmology; each is associated with a boundless social emotion: love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity; where the god Brahmā dwells.


Term literally meaning "from the beginning;" used with reference to indigenous peoples.


Patriarch of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Tradition states that the Lord established a covenant with his people through him.


The first of three Persian dynasties (550-330 BCE) to promote Zoroastrian tradition; Zarathushtra's biographical tradition began to develop after they conquered Babylonia.

Ādi Buddha

Mahāyāna Buddhist concept of the ground of awareness personified through this metaphor.


Term for "Lord" spoken out loud in places where YHVH appears in the Hebrew Bible.


Term used by social scientists to emphasize the element of will (or political deprivation of will) in the lives human actors who comprise and create society.


Narrative; a Jewish legend, parable, joke, sermon, historical tale, or other narrative. Helps interpret biblical material, often by suggesting why something is or how it happened to become so.


Non-violence; the core value of Jain tradition, which involves minimizing harm to oneself or other beings through acts of body, speech, and mind.

Ahura Mazdā

Wise Lord; the ultimate principle in the Zoroastrian (Mazdean) religion that is associated with sacred fire.


Early Caucasian-like people living in Japan with a distinctive culture, including the bear sacrifice.

ٔĀ’ishah bint Abī Bakr

Wife of Prophet Muḥammad who contributed significantly to the body of ḥadīth tradition.

Akal Takhat

Throne of the Timeless; seat of Sikh panth's legal, political, and military authority, which is located in Amritsar near the Harimandir.


(b. 1933) Name of the current Japanese emperor, who is today a figurehead with no overt political power.

ٔAkká (Acre)

Palestinian prison city where, in turn, Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá were held.


Macedonian (Greek) king who burn down Persepolis, the Persian Achaemenid seat of power, in 330 BCE; though many called him "the Great," Persians call him "the Accursed."


Primary name for God in Islam.

Āḻvārs and Nāyaṉārs

(ca. 600s - 900s) Names of two groups of Śaiva Tamils; there are twelve famous poets in the first group, and sixty-three in the second.

Amar Dās

(1479-1574) The third Sikh Gurū; instituted the laṅgar; defended religious freedom.


The kami of the sun, from whom all Japanese emperors are said to be descended, according to Shintō belief.

Amesha Spentas

Holy Immortals; beneficent entities in Zoroastrian religion that protect the physical world, and inspire good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.

anahat śabad

The unstruck sound apprehended within the heart; Sikhs say that this unmanifest sound beyond speech corresponds to the Nām, which is the manifest name of God.

Ānandamāyī Mā

(1896-1981) Modern Hindu saint from a family of Kṛṣṇa devotees who was self-initiated; she performed healing miracles and established an āśram in Haridwar.


Non-self; Buddhist notion that there is no inherently existing ātman, but rather a stream of consciousness subject to impact from karma.


Not-one-sided or non-bias; the ideal perspective in Jain tradition, which involves seeing all sides of an issue or situation.


(1504-1552) The second Sikh Gurū; taught the Gurmukhī script; educated a new generation of Sikhs.

Angra Mainyu

The Hostile Spirit in Zoroastrian religion who battles the "twin" spirit Spenta Mainyu in this physical world.


Adjective describing a tradition does not use figural representations of extraordinary persons, such as prophets, buddhas, and so forth.


Impermanence; among the three marks of existence to be realized in Buddhist meditation.

anno Domini

Words abbreviated by A.D. used after dates.

anno Hegirae

Words abbreviated by A.H. used after dates.

Antony of the Desert

(d. 356 CE) A hermit from Egypt whose strict penance in the desert was emulated by later Christians.


Non-grasping; a form of non-violence in Jain tradition that entails not clinging to material things or opinions.


A revelation that professes to "unveil" or reveal the future; John's "revelation" in the New Testament predicts a cataclysmic struggle between good and evil at Armageddon bringing the end of the world.


A handful of disciples appointed by Jesus of Nazareth to heal and spread his message, plus other prominent early Christians such those who witnessed Jesus' resurrection, Paul, and early missionaries; from a Greek word meaning "messenger."


A person from or descended from a nomadic Bedouin tribe of Arabia; a person whose language is a dialect based on Arabic; a person who uses Arabic as a ritual language, i.e., Muslims.


Ancient Semitic family of languages. Widely used by Jews and non-Jews in Palestine (mixed with Greek words) and Babylon (mixed with Persian words). Language of the Talmud.


Person who realized non-self and needs not take rebirth after passing away; goal of Theravāda Buddhist practice.

Arjan Dev

(1563-1606) The fifth Sikh Gurū; compiled the Ādi Granth; started building the Harimandir; martyred (seated on hot plate, covered with hot sand) under Jahāṇgīr.


A chest made of acacia wood overlaid with gold that was housed in a special shrine in Solomon's temple in Jerusalem (ca. 1000 BCE), but was lost that temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE.

Ārya Samāj

Hindu social movement founded in 1875 by Svāmī Dayānanda Sarasvatī, who argue that the Vedas are monotheistic, and contain scientific truths that can be applied in modern research.


Term for the group of people known as Indo-Europeans or Indo-Iranians from whom the Avesta and the Ṛgveda came.


Name of the Indo-European people whose beliefs and traditions underlie both the Hindu and Zoroastrian traditions; this is a cultural (not a racial) designation.


Word for Truth Order in Zoroastrian tradition; used as a title for Zarathushtra, and name of the Amesha Spenta that embodies Best Order.


Things that are truthful, orderly, and work for the side of good.


Diaspora Jews who lived in Germany and France, and their descendants. Many migrated to Eastern Europe, or America. They speak Yiddish, a Germanic language, mixed with Semitic words.

Aśoka Maurya

Indian king who reigned around 270-232; he is thought of as a Buddhist king, but he promoted all forms of dharma in India through patronage, giving dharma tours, and writing advice on rocks, pillars, and caves.


The true self, the soul; used in Hindu and Sikh traditions to describe the eternal energy within a person whose correspondence to the pervasive divine energy (Brahman or God) can be realized.

ٔAṭṭār, Farīd al-Dīn

(1145?-1220) Persian Ṣūfī poet who wrote the allegorical Conference of the Birds, which identifies seven valleys through which a mystic seeker of God travels.


(354-430 CE) Early Christian theologian born into an Algerian North African community of Roman citizens; theorized about the nature of good and evil and concluded, in contrast to the followers of Mani, that evil was fundamentally the privation of good and not an ontological force in itself.


One descended from on high; one of ten incarnations of the Hindu deity Viṣṇu.


The key Zoroastrian scripture, which contains the hymns of Zarathushtra among other materials.

axis mundi

World pole.

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