Introducing World Religions:
The eBook

Introducing World Religions Online:
Comprehensive Glossary of Terms

Term Definition


(1817-1852) First female disciple of the Báb; Muslim-born Persian poet who was martyred in Iran as a Bábí; outspoken proponent of women's rights.


Supreme Ultimate; in Chinese thought the reservoir of infinite potentiality that embodies yin and yang.

Tai-ji quan

Supreme Ultimate Fist; Chinese martial art based on concepts in the Dao de jing and Book of Changes.


Country that is the seat of most religious Daoist practice in modern times; the Celestial Masters sect flourishes there today.

Tale of Genji

First novel in world literature; written by Murasaki Shikibu around 1000 CE about life in the Heian court.


Commentary on the Tanakh (one from Palestine, one from Babylon) comprised of collections called the Mishnah and the Gemara'.


Name for the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) made from the first letters of Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim.


Chinese dynasty (618-906 CE) during which a creative interplay between Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions occurred; the era ended with anti-Buddhist sentiment, and a nationalistic attitude among certain Confucian thinkers.


Form of yogic practice involving mantras, mudras, and maṇḍalas; Buddhist forms include Vajrayāna in India and Tibet, and Shingon in Japan.


Maori term for powerful (hence dangerous) things or situations that must only be encountered through ritual.


Thus-gone; title that Gautama Buddha liked to apply to himself.


Thusness; reality just so, as-it-is; Buddhist concept telling how things appear when a person is enlightened:.


Arabic for belief in the unity of God.


A yam that is the central crop produced through ceremonial gardening by the Bowoan people of the Trobriand Islands.

Tegh Bahādur

(1621-1675) The ninth Sikh Gurū; defended the Hindu and Sikh religious from persecution; martyred (beheaded) under Auraṇgzeb.


Prayers written in Yiddish interspersed with Hebrew scriptural quotes, used by Jewish women to sanctify aspects of their domestic life.

ten elements of performance

Term used by our author to speak of the lived time, lived place, and lived objects in addition to the DRESTAT functions


Religion of Divine Wisdom; a Japanese New Religion founded by Nakayama Miki (1798-1887) after being possessed by a kami


Southern Buddhism; culturally conservative branch of Buddhism found primarily in: Sri Lanka, Kampuchea, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam (which has both Theravāda and Mahāyāna); holds the arhat ideal, and emphasizes the historical Buddha.

thick description

Complex description that suggests the significance of an action or thing, as opposed to the "thin" portrayal of its obvious outward aspect. (Gilbert Ryle's term.)

Thomas Aquinas

(1225-1274) Scholastic philosopher who wrote the Summa theologia, a compendium of Christian knowledge that used Aristotle's categories to treat theological problems.

three aspects of meaning

Term used by our author to speak of lived time, lived place, and lived objects.

Three Jewels

In Jain tradition: Right Thought, Right Faith, Right Conduct, all of which hearken back to the princple of non-violence. In Buddhist tradition: the three objects of Refuge, namely the Buddha, dharma and sangha (also translated as the Triple Gem).

three marks of existence

Term for three realizations that are central to the Buddhist worldview: non-self, impermanence, and suffering.

three poisons

Three mental afflictions that, according to Buddhist theory, cause suffering and rebirth into saṃsāra: ignorance, greed, hatred.


Chinese term for Heaven introduced by ancient Chinese Zhou rulers in the second millennium BCE.

Tilak, B. G. and Gāndhī, M. K.

(1856-1920) and (1869-1948) Two Hindu freedom fighters of the modern era who debated about the effectiveness of non-violence in social action.


Ford or crossing-place; refers to Jain holy places and the four-fold spiritual community that includes: monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen.


Human beings that reintroduce the Jain path, and inspire disciples to establish tīrthas. Twenty-four appear in each phase of an endless cosmic cycle.


(1603-1867) Era of Japan's history during which the rulers adopted a strict isolationist policy, and refused virtually all the country's economic and cultural dealings with the outside world.


Gateway to a Shintō shrine; also symbols marking places associated with kami; literally, bird-perch.


A ceremonial gardener among the Bowoans of Papua New Guinea.


Hierophanic event reported in the Christian Gospel of Luke where Jesus took disciples Peter, James, and John to Mount Tabor for prayer, and appeared with a face shining like the sun with clothes of white light.


Actual transformation of the inner essence of the bread and the wine of the Eucharist into the body and blood of Jesus Christ; belief officially held by Roman Catholics since the Council of Trent (1545-63), but rejected by other Christians.


A type of mythic character (often a messenger) who goes back and forth between the human world and the unseen world of the spirits or godlings.


Hindu divinity portrayed as three-in-one: Brahmā the creator, Viṣṇu the sustainer, and Śiva the destroyer of the world.


Three baskets of Buddha's teaching: Vinaya (including the monastic saṃgha training precepts), Sūtras (discourses), and Abhidharma (systematic commentaries).


Pious one; a learned, saintly person among Hasidic Jews, usually addressed as "rebbe."


(1357-1419) Founder of the Gelug school of Buddhist tradition in Tibet; promoted the key Buddhist idea that buddha-dharma should be approached by hearing, thinking, and meditating.


 Pollution in Shintō; this is in contrast to harai; thus a Shintōist removes this by means of harai.


(1532-1623) Vaiṣṇava author of a bhakti Rāmāyaṇa, written in Hindi; the massive poem uses the metaphor of a holy lake in which devotees become immersed in the ultimate reality of Rāma and Sītā.

Tuṣita heaven

A realm of existence in Buddhist cosmology where Maitreya, the future Buddha, waits to descend to earth; Gautama Buddha's mother was reborn here.

Tutu, Desmond

(b. 1931) Activist theologian who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work in helping end apartheid in South Africa; became the first black Anglican Archbishop in South Africa.


Term for the majority of Shīٔī Muslims; they believe in a lineage of twelve imāms, and expect al-Mahdī, the Twelfth Imām, to appear in the world again after his "occultation" (i.e., mysterious disappearance or hiding) in the ninth century CE; this sect of Islam was made the official religion of Iran in 1500 under Ṣafavid rule.

Tzevi, Shabbetai

(1626-1676) Jewish mystic from Smyrna, Turkey who claimed to be the messiah. He converted to Islam and the Donmeh sect continues his lineage in Turkey today.

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