Introducing World Religions:
The eBook

Introducing World Religions Online:
Comprehensive Glossary of Terms

Term Definition

Ba'al Shem Ṭov

Popular name for Israel ben Eliezer (ca. 1699-1769) who began the Ḥasidic Jewish spiritual movement in eastern Europe; means "Master of the Name."


Canaanite gods, worship of whom was forbidden by Mosaic Law.


Father of the secret; a priest of Ifá divination.


Followers of the Báb; the Bahá’í Faith grew from their spiritual community.


(1817-1892) Founder of the Bahá’í Faith who declared public ally in 1863 that he was the one expected as "Him Whom God shall make manifest."


A hidden "barrier" between two things; describes the imaginal realm in Islamic cosmology where angels abide.

Bashō and Hakuin

Two Buddhist Japanese artists from seventeenth century Japan; the first (1644-1694) gave up life as a samurai and composed haiku poetry; the second (1685-1768) was a poet and inkwash painter who spoke of the Great Doubt that kōan practice generated in the mind.


Utterance, exposition; name given to works in Persian and Arabic composed by the Báb; here he spoke of one to come who would be "Him Whom God shall make manifest."

Benedict of Nursia

(d. ca. 550 CE) An early leader of the Christian monastic movement whose Rule is still used today by Roman Catholic monks and nuns.

Bernard of Clairvaux

(1090-1153) Roman Catholic founder of the Christian Cictercian order at Citeaux, France who had a reputation for his strict practice of penance; he rallied people to join the second Crusade, although he was a proponent of non-violence.


(fl. ca. 350) Digambara Jains trace the origin of their "sky clad" sect to this man who led a group of Jains to southern India during a time of famine up north, and returned to find those who stayed adopted the custom of wearing white clothing.


Devotee; a Hindu on the path of devotion.

bhikṣu and bhikṣuṇī

Term for monk and nun in the Buddhist tradition.

Black Elk

A holy man of the Oglala Sioux People who helped many non-native Americans understand the Sun Dance and other aspects of his culture.


Mind of enlightenment; compassionate mental decision to bring all living beings out of suffering; with this mind the practitioner the practitioner starts the bodhisattva path.

Bodhidharma and Hui-neng

A pair of Chan Buddhists; the first (fl. 480-520) brought the dhyāna tradition from India to China; the second (638-713) became the sixth Chan patriarch in China.


A "being of enlightenment;" Nikāya (Theravāda) Buddhists typically use the word this word with reference to Gautama Buddha before he became enlightened, while Mahāyānists use the word with reference to practitioners (at different levels of spiritual development) who seek enlightenment and vow to return to the world endlessly to free sentient beings from suffering.


The ultimate principle of Hindu tradition, thought of as the living essence of the universe.


A member of the priestly class of ancient India, according to Vedic teachings; the caste persists today among Hindus.


Buddhist concept referring to the forms in which an enlightened being can appear to people. (1) The form body is a flesh and blood person, such as the human Gautama who lived in India. (2) The communion body is the subtle form body that appears in the dreams and contemplative visions of skilled meditators and faithful people. (3) The dharma body is the mind of an enlightened being, seen when someone realizes the deepest point of Buddha's teachings. Theravāda Buddhists do not discuss the communion body.

Bukhārī, al-

(810-870) Muslim compiler of an authoritative collection of ḥadīths.


Name for the creature who, according to Islamic sacred lore, transported Prophet Muḥammad on the Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and back.


Way of the warrior-knight; code of conduct for samurai that appeared earlier, but was formalized around 1600 in the Tokugawa era.


A household Buddhist altar in Japan.

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