Introducing World Religions:
The eBook

Introducing World Religions Online:
Comprehensive Glossary of Terms

Term Definition


Tibetan Buddhist founder of Nyingma tradition who traveled to Tibet from Swat (present-day Pakistan) in 746 CE.


Middle Persian language in which most Zoroastrian theological texts are written; name of the secular dynasty that ruled Iran from 1925-1979 and was overturned during the Iranian Cultural Revolution.


Ancient Chinese culture hero; a traditional story says that his body turned into the earth's geological formations, as his head turned into the four sacred mountains, and so forth.


A buddha's final nirvāṇa, which occurs at the time of death.


A term for someone related to Zoroastrians who migrated to India in search of religious freedom starting in 936 CE; "Persians" in India.


(b. 800s BCE) Name of the twenty-third Jain tīrthaṃkara; considered to be the first known by historical standards to have lived.


(247 BCE-224 CE) Era of Iranian history during which the "three maji" spoken of in the Christian scriptures would have gone to find the baby Jesus in Jerusalem; they favored Mithra over Ahura Mazdā, and ruled from a center in Iran east of the Caspian sea.

Paul of Tarsus

Christian apostle of Jesus who was martyred ca. 64 CE; he wrote numerous letters, which stand as the earliest materials in the New Testament.

Paz, Octavio

Mexican winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1990.


Letters standing for “peace be upon him,” written by Muslims after the name of a prophet; in Arabic this becomes alaihi as-salam abbreviated "as."


Greek term for the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or Torah.


Christian holiday 50 days after Easter that commemorates the experience of glossolalia by a group of Christians in which they began speaking in tongues.


English translation of the term in various Native American languages, used with reference to themselves.


(d. 203 CE) An early Christian martyr who, soon after giving birth, was sent to the Roman amphitheater to be mauled by beasts as punishment for refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods.


Name of a tribe of western Iranians; based on a name for Iran connected with the southwestern province of Fārs from where the Achaemenids and Sassanids ruled.


A philosophical school that originated in the early 1900s with Edmund Husserl in Germany.


(201?-269?) Queen of Japan from the Bronze-Iron period; she was a miko.


Term used by anthropologists with reference to the activity of homo ludens whose creative, spontaneous activity is central to the creation of culture.

postcolonial turn

Phase of modern cultural criticism that can involve a wide range of issues including challenging western ethnocentrism, exposing the nation state mentality established by colonialists for ease of subjugation, and deconstructing feminine identity in light of colonialism.

Prabhupāda, A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī

(1896-1977) Hindu founder of ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness; this Bengali was initiated into the spiritual lineage that runs through the teachers Madhva and Caitanya.


Wisdom; in Buddhism realization of śūnyatā or anātman.


Term for the science of breath; it is listed fourth among the eight limbs of yoga, and is discussed after an account of the āsanas in Patañjali's Yoga Sūtras.


A spontaneous and unalloyed love of Lord Kṛṣṇa; the highest spiritual emotion of a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava devotee.

progressive revelation

Bahá’í belief that God's revelation is never final, and that Manifestations of God revealed God's teachings and laws according to the needs of the times in which they lived. 

Protestant Reformation

Term given to the reform of Christianity among western (non-Byzantine) Christians, among whose proponents were John Wyclif (1326-1384), Jan Hus (1372-1415), Martin Luther (1483-1546), Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), John Calvin (1509-1564), and John Wesley (1703-1791).


 Homage; ritual in Indian religions in which offerings are made to holy beings who are treated as honored guests.


Ancient stories; a genre of Hindu bhakti literature that relates stories of deities in various forms, such as Kṛṣṇa, Śiva, and Śakti.

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