Posted in On the Path, Precepts Holders, Vinaya

Common Sangha titles part 2 – use what we tell you

Venerable

In Buddhism, the Western style of Venerable (also abbreviated as Ven.) is entitled to ordained  Buddhist monks  and  nuns  and also to novices ( shramaneras ). The title of Master may be followed for senior members of the  Sangha . Venerable, along with “” Reverend “” (Rev.) is used as a western alternative to Maha Thera in the  Theravada  branch and Shì (釋, as in “Sakya”) in  Chinese  Mahayana  branch.

法師 fashi is the most common form among the Chinese Buddhist community.  It means Dharma Master, and is used for all ranks of monastics from sramaneras to bhikshus and bhikshuni; this is not a term for married clergy as in the laity or for non-Buddhists.

Source: A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera, Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary [available as digital version from Metta Net, Sri Lanka]

Description:

venerable : (adj.) mahanīya; garukātabba; sambhāvanīya; gāravāraha.

Source: Buddhistdoor

Description:

喇嘛A transcription of the Tibetan bla ma, usually rendered in English as lama. A Buddhist priest of the Tibetan tradition. The Through Tibetan cultural influence, the terms is also seen used in Mongolia, Nepal, Northeast India, Bhutan, etc.

Source: A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera, Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary [available as digital version from Metta Net, Sri Lanka]

Description:

Lama:(m.) Tibbatīya-yati.

Wikipedia source:

Lama  ( Tibetan : བླ་མ་;  Wylie : bla-ma; “chief” or “high priest”) is a title for a  Tibetan  teacher of the  Dharma . The name is similar to the Sanskrit term guru    (see  Tibetan Buddhism  and  Bön ).

Historically, the term was used for venerated spiritual masters  or heads of monasteries.  Today the title can be used as an honorific title conferred on a  monk ,  nun or (in the  Nyingma ,  Kagyu  and  Sakya  schools) advanced  tantric  practitioner to designate a level of spiritual attainment and authority to teach, or may be part of a title such as Dalai Lama  or  Panchen Lama applied to a lineage of reincarnate lamas ( Tulkus ).  Perhaps due to misunderstandings by early western scholars attempting to understand Tibetan Buddhism, the term Lama has historically been erroneously applied to Tibetan monks generally. Similarly, Tibetan Buddhism was referred to as Lamaism by early western scholars and travelers who perhaps did not understand that what they were witnessing was a form of Buddhism; they may also have been unaware of the distinction between Tibetan Buddhism and  Bön . The term Lamaism is now considered by some to be derogatory.

In the  Vajrayana  practice path of Tibetan Buddhism, the lama is often the tantric spiritual guide, the  guru  to the aspiring Buddhist  yogi  or  yogini . As such, the lama will then appear as one of the  Three Roots  (a variant of the  Three Jewels ), alongside the  yidam  and protector (who may be a  dakini ,  dharmapala  or other Buddhist deity figure).

Rinpoche

Source: A Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 2003, 2004 (which is available in electronic version from answer.com)

Description:

rinpoche

A Tibetan title of respect usually reserved for tülkus. The term means ‘precious guru’.

Roshi

Rōshi  (老師 ? ) (Chinese  pinyin : Lǎoshī; Sanskrit : ṛṣi ) is a  Japanese  non-official honorific title used in  Zen Buddhism  that literally means “old teacher” or “elder master” and sometimes denotes a person who gives spiritual guidance to a Zen sangha or congregation. Traditionally, it was applied as a respectful honorific to an older (usually over 60) Zen teacher who was perceived by a sangha to have realized a superior understanding of the  Dharma . Despite this, it has come in some modern Zen schools to be applied as a semi-official title that doesn’t have to do with the age of the individual who receives it. This is especially true in the United States. There is sometimes dispute about use of the term rōshi, and there is wide variance in its application.

Most teachers called rōshi have undergone many years of arduous training. In some  Rinzai  organizations, a monastic is sometimes called rōshi after they have received inka  shōmei, meaning they have completed kōan study and received  Dharma transmission  from their master (full authorization to teach and pass on the lineage). In the  Harada-Yasutani  school, a lay organization that combines Soto and Rinzai elements, a person is called rōshi when they have received inka, indicating they have passed the kōan curriculum and received Dharma transmission.

In the  Sōtō  organization, a person is sometimes called rōshi after they have received the title of shike, but this is by no means standard practice.

Many Zen communities in the  United States  confer the title of rōshi to their teachers in deference to perceived Japanese Zen tradition, and in most instances it is used synonymously with the term  Zen master . However, in Japanese tradition the term’s usage has never been standardized. Its use in this way in the U.S. and Europe has at times led to confusion and controversy.

Chinese  Chán Buddhism  uses the semantically related title sifu (師父, literally “master father” or “father of masters”, or 師傅, literally “master teacher” or “teacher of masters”; both pronounced “shīfu”) as an honorific title for the highest masters, but it also may be used in respectful address of monks and nuns generally.

Stuart Lachs has argued that Zen institutions in the West have often attributed a mythic status to the title rōshi with harmful consequences.

Thera

Source: Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, G P Malalasekera (1899-1973), which is available as printed version from

Description:

Thera.-Name of a monk in Rājagaha. He lived in solitude, the virtues of which state he extolled. Hearing this, the Buddha sent for him and taught him how the solitary life could be perfected in detail (S.ii.282f).

Source: A Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 2003, 2004 (which is available in electronic version from answer.com)

Description: thera

Pāli honorific term meaning ‘old’ or ‘venerable’, and used with reference to the senior monks of the Buddhist monastic order (Saṃgha). The seniority of a monk is determined not by age but by the time elapsed since ordination. Normally ten years’ standing is required for a monk to be considered as a thera.

Source: A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera, Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary [available as digital version from Metta Net, Sri Lanka]

Description: thera : [m.] an elder; a senior; a monk who has spent 10 years from his upasampadā. adj. old; elder.

Source: Pali-English Dictionary, TW Rhys Davids, William Stede,

Description:

Thera [Vedic sthavira. Derivation uncertain. It may come from sthā in sense of standing over, lasting (one year or more), cp. thāvara old age, then “old=venerable”; (in meaning to be compared w. Lat. senior, etc. from num. sem “one”=one year old, i. e. lasting over one and many more years). Cp. also vetus=Gr. e)/tos, year, E. wether, one year old ram, as cpd. w. veteran, old man. Or it may come from sthā in der. *stheṷā in sthūra (sthūla: see etym. under thūla) thus, “strong= venerable”] t.t. only used with ref. to the bhikkhus of Gotama Buddha’s community. — (a) (adj.) senior, Vin i.47, 290 (th. bhikkhū opp. navā bh.), 159 (th. bhikkhu a senior bh. opp. to navaka bh. a novice), 187; ii.16, 212. Therânutherā bhikkhū seniors & those next to them in age dating not from birth, but from admission to the Order). Three grades are distinguished, thera bh., majjhima bh., nava bh., at D i.78. — See also A ii.23, 147, 168; v.201, 348; D iii.123 sq., 218; Dh 260, 261. In Sangha — thera, used of Bhikkhus not senior in the Order, the word thera means distinguished. Vin ii.212, 303. In Mahāthera the meaning, as applied to the 80 bhikkhus so called, must also have some similar meaning Dīpv iv.5 Psalms of the Brethren xxxvi.; J v.456. At A ii.22 it is said that a bhikkhu, however junior, may be called thera on account of his wisdom. It is added that four characteristics make a man a thera — high character, knowing the essential doctrines by heart, practising the four Jhānas, and being conscious of having attained freedom through the destruction of the mental intoxications. It is already clear that at a very early date, before the Anguttara reached its extant shape, a secondary meaning of thera was tending to supplant that of senior — that is, not the senior of the whole Order, but the senior of such a part of the Sangha as live in the same locality, or are carrying out the same function. — Note. thera in thero vassiko at S iv.161 is to be read tero — vassiko.
— gāthā hymns of senior bhikkhus, N. of a canonical book, incorporated in the Khuddaka — Nikāya. Theratara, very senior, oppd to navatara, novice D ii.154. — vāda the doctrine of the Theras, the original Buddhist doctrine M i.164; Dpvs iv.6, 13.

Theri

Source: A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera, Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary [available as digital version from Metta Net, Sri Lanka]

Description:

therī : [f.] a senior nun; and old woman.

Elder Sister:

Source: A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera, Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary [available as digital version from Metta Net, Sri Lanka]

Description: elder sister : (f.) jeṭṭhabhaginī.

和尚he shang – Buddhist monk (Bhikshu), Sanskrit: upadhyaya/Pali: upajjhaya

和尚尼 heshangni – Buddhist nun (Bhikshuni), Sanskrit: upadhyayani/Pali: upajjhayani (SAME as acaryani)

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Author:

I am a Bhikshuni ordained in Mahayana Chinese Buddhist tradition. I'm currently translating Vinaya sutras from the Chinese Mahayana Tripitaka.