Introducing World Religions:
The eBook

Introducing World Religions Online:
Comprehensive Glossary of Terms

Term Definition


Traditional term for Zoroastrian priests (now generally called by another term).


(d. 500s BCE) Name meaning "great hero" used for Vardhamāna, the twenty-fourth Jain tīrthaṃkara, who may have been an older contemporary of Gautama Buddha's.


Northern Buddhism; culturally progressive branch of Buddhism found primarily in East and Central Asian countries: Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam (which has also the other branch), as well as pre-Communist China and Tibet; holds the bodhisattva ideal.


Holy figure descended from Prophet Muḥammad who will appear at the end of times, and open the way for the second coming of Jesus.

Maimonides, Moses

(1134-1204) Medieval scholar who identified thirteen principles that he presumed were common to Jewish thought, and wrote 14 volumes to classify Jewish law.


The life-attitude of sincerity that is the core value of Shintō tradition.

malakhey elohim

Messengers of God; Hebrew term for angels.

Malcolm X

(1925-1965) American-born convert from Christianity to Islam, who as a prominent Muslim leader in the US urged African-Americans focus on their human rights and take their case to the United Nations.


Name of country in West Africa that was the seat of a wealthy empire ca. 1240-1500 CE.


Circle; a stylized cosmic diagram used in tantric rituals among Buddhists and Hindus; it may be created as a painting, through hand gestures, or in the imagination. 


(b. 216 BCE) Prophet influenced by Zoroastrian tradition who spread a religion that was to be universal for all humankind based on a new scripture.


Religious tradition based on the teachings of the Mani (d. 216 CE), the prophet from Persia who offered a universal religion colored by Zoroastrian teachings about the cosmic battle between positive and negative forces.


Bahá’í term for one of God's messengers or universal prophets. Each perfectly reflects God's attributes on earth, but is not God. Bahá’ís consider that Bahá’u’lláh is God's messenger for this age.


A sweet, flaky food that the Israelites believed was provided by the Lord to sustain them in the desert after leaving Egypt.


General term for practices related to divination.


A set of sacred words whose vibrations have a purifying effect on the person who recites them; for Jains and Hindus the most inclusive sacred word is AUṂ.

Mao Ze-dong

(1893-1976) Modern leader of the Chinese Cultural Revolution who sought to rid China of its four "olds," namely: ideas, culture, customs, and habits from his Chinese heritage; he created a political philosophy in reaction to colonialism, but with an appeal to Marxism-Leninism.


Sanskrit word meaning path; Hindu tradition often is thought of as including paths of works, knowledge, and devotion.


Illusion; term used in Hindu tradition, especially in the Advaita Vedānta school.


A person who worships Ahura Mazdā; also called Zoroastrian or Zardushti, and more specifically Irani or Parsi.

McCutcheon, Russell T.

Contemporary reductionist scholar of religions who calls upon students of religions to be "culture critics" who do not fall into the trap of trying to nurture, enhance, or criticize the communities they study.


(372?-289?) The first great thinker to elaborate upon Confucius' teachings; he claimed that human nature was fundamentally good, but people needed education to bring out their goodness.

Mendelssohn, Moses

(1729-1796) European Enlightenment leader who was among the first to embrace the "emancipation" of Jews; translated the Tanakh into German using Hebrew characters.


The "world of thought" (sometimes called spiritual realm) in Zoroastian tradition.


An anointed one from the line of David, the ancient Israelite king. Christians accept Jesus as being this "anointed one."


Term of Spanish origin for a person of mixed blood, used with reference to Mexicans of Spanish and Indian descent, for example.


A story about a story in the Hebrew Bible. A literary form filling a gap between two words different from a commentary, which elaborates on one word or point.


Christian belief based on Revelation 20 of the New Testament that predicts a time when Christ will return to reign over a new world (for 1000 years).


Ten adult Jews needed for worship. Women are included in Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative, but not Orthodox Jewish sects.


(sixteenth century?) A Hindu devotee of Kṛṣṇa; she was among the first women Hindu saints on the bhakti-mārga, and her life exemplifies challenges faced by women.


A compilation of Jewish instruction written in Hebrew from oral tradition that forms the early layer of the two Talmuds.


One of the chief yazatas in Zoroastrian religion, associated with the sun and contracts.


Commandments. 613 religious duties to be observed by Jews.


Modern term for Zoroastriain priest.


Aztec leader who was defeated by Hernón Cortés during the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 1500s.


Term used by the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand for tattoo.


Liberation from the cycle of rebirth; Jains, and Hindus aspire to this; Buddhists (and sometimes Jains) call it nirvāṇa.

Motoori Norinaga

(1730-1801) Major proponent of the kokugaku movement in Japan; he wrote in the ancient Japanese style to imbue himself with mono no aware, and wrote a long commentary on the Kojiki.


(468?-376?) Ancient Chinese philosopher who promoted the notion of universal love; this negated the Confucian idea of the five social relationships; he was a utilitarian who said that the government should ban all customs that served no purpose in society.


Seal or sign; a canonical gesture (mostly formed by the hands) with symbolic meaning used in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain rituals, as well as in the visual arts and choreography.


One who calls people to Islamic prayer.

Mullā Ṣadrā

(1571-1640) Persian Islamic philosopher who claimed that the imaginal world has an objective reality with properties of form but no ordinary material existence.

Murasaki Shikibu

(b. 978?) Author of the Tale of Gengi, which was arguably the world's first novel.


One who “surrenders” (to Allāh's will); a person of the Islamic faith.

mysterium fascinans

A mystery that draws people toward it because it evoked the emotion of religious fascination.

mysterium tremendum

A mystery that frightens people away, because it evoked the emotion of religious awe.

For questions about your order or for technical support please send an e-mail.