“Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?”
You were sent here because you clicked on a word you wished to learn more about. Or maybe it was by mistake. If the first scenario is right, carry on. If the second scenario is right, carry on.
The following glossary will be updated every time a new basic term is presented.
Disclaimer: All terms are mostly undefinable, and every doubtless statement is necessarily controversial. The concise content brought here is only very superficial outlines meant to help you in your initial grasping of a certain topic.
You can see this page as a set of attention-catching wavings to the helicopter from underneath, hoping to be lifted up to a point from where a more coherent landscape can be seen. Once up, you can start second-guessing absolutely everything. Learn, spring, decide for yourself when the outlines are enough for the moment, and when you must erase them altogether and play the game of definitions a different way. For instance, starting to define the word “Torah” with a random word (let’s say – “necklace“) and see what happens.
◊ Midrash – [from the word “darash” – to search out, to inquire] Verse by verse exegesis of Jewish biblical scriptures as taught by Chazal (Rabbinical Jewish sages of the post-Temple era). The main Midrashim (in plural) are interpretations of the Pentateuch and the five scrolls, known for their exposing, creative and at times boldly poetic way of thought.
◊ Talmud – The collection of ancient rabbinic writings on Jewish law that constitute the basis of religious authority in Orthodox Judaism. Apart from law interpretations, usually presented as multi-voice symposiums, it also includes insightful anecdotes from the time as well as philosophical interpretations of verses from the old testament, when relevant to the subject of discussion.
◊ Torah – a) Pentateuch – The first of three parts of the Hebrew Bible, consisting of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus & Deuteronomy. All, according to tradition, were written by Moses as dictated to him by God, and therefore, out of the entire bible they possess the highest level of sanctity.
b) A more general and undefinable term referring to the entire body of the Jewish sacred scriptures and teachings (including written and oral laws).
◊ Koan – An unstabling and often paradoxical question, statement or story used in Zen practice to test a student’s understanding and progress. Hakuin’s question “What is the sound of one hand?” is one example.
◊ Meditation – Calibration of consciousness, practiced traditionally by sitting, standing, walking or laying down; One of the three expressions of the Noble Eightfold path, the other two being wisdom and right conduct. Koan practice and the Sōtō Shikantaza (just sitting, without any anchoring goals of attainment) are two examples. The meditational mental state is that of attentive detachment from any sort of conditional identifying with any manifestation of self, thought, opinion and sensation. By meditating one is practicing the release from such narrowing, and therefore false and unreliable limitations of the mind, thus reducing the reign of suffering in his or her life.
◊ Zen – 禪 (“Chan” in Chinese) School of Mahayana Buddhism asserting that enlightenment can come through direct intuitive insight and meditation. Zen Buddhism originated in China, greatly influenced by Daoism, and spread to Vietnam, Korea and Japan, where it evolved further through the unique local masters and practitioners in each country.