Congregation: Members belonging to a specific house of worship; a religious organization.

Liturgy: A rite or body of rites

Mantra: a verse, syllable, or series of syllables, believed to be of divine origin, used in a ritual or meditative context in Indian religions.


Anglicanism: The Church of England, an Episcopal church. It separated from the Roman Catholic Church due to the pope’s refusal to give King Henry VIII a divorce. The Anglican Church can be seen as a “reformed” Catholic Church, since they are ritually quite similar, but it was also exhibits Protestant Reformation influence. Tradition and human reason should be used accordingly to interpret the Bible. In US, called Episcopal Church.

Anglicanism Roman Catholicism
Divorce? Granted No
Use of Contraception? Yes No
Women clergy? Yes No
Leader? Archbishop of Canterbury is the head, but does not exert complete authority Pope

Arminianism: named after Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius; Stresses that God has predestined those who will be saved and who will not be by foreknowledge of what people, with their own free will, choose.

Baptist: Distinct from other Protestant sects in that only believer’s baptism is allowed, not infant baptism. Because of its congregational church organization, each church differs in doctrine, swaying from Calvinist to Arminian.

Bible: Holiest book of Christians. It consists of the Old Testament and New Testament.

Bishop: From the Greek episkopos, meaning “overseer.” highest priest; his duties are the general oversight of the diocese or administrative area, including the supervision of the clergy.

Calvin, John (1509-1564): Major French Protestant Reformer

Calvinism: Named after John Calvin. Stresses the sovereignty and glory of God. Its beliefs of popularly described using the acronym TULIP.

Total Depravity: Man is born in sin and is sinful by nature

Unconditional Election: Before the beginning of the world, God chose the ones He will save (the elect) and those who will be damned.

Limited Atonement: Christ died only for the elect

Irresistible grace: God’s initial call of grace cannot be resisted by the elect

Perseverance of grace: Once in faith, one cannot fall away

Christmas: Christian holiday on December 25 to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth.

Collegiate Church: Governed by a group of ecclesiastical members, such as in one more than one minister. In the case of Catholicism, it is not the seat of a bishop or under the bishop’s jurisdiction.

Congregational Churches: Those that assert the autonomy of the local congregation, seeking no higher authority or dependency from other churches.

Easter: Christian holiday for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Episcopal: 1. Any Church governed by bishops, such as the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Churches. 2. the Anglican Church in United States.

Eucharist: Mass or Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. One of the sacraments. Bread and wine are placed on a table, and given thanks for, and distributed.

Evangelicals: Protestant Christians who stress belief in personal conversion and salvation by faith in atoning death of Christ, and Bible is sole authority. They typically uphold importance of preaching in contrast to liturgical worship.

Gifts: special abilities and moments of inspiration endowed by the Holy Spirit, such as healing and prophecy.

Grace: God’s love in His true, undeserved favor; mercy

Liturgy: Worship according to prescribed forms, as opposed to private devotions.

Luther, Martin (1483-1546): German Protestant Reformer

Lutheranism: Scripture is the true authority, as opposed to tradition (like the pope). Man is born in sin, but by faith alone, one can be saved. Originated from teachings of Martin Luther.

Lutheranism Calvinism Arminianism
Man’s condition Totally depraved Totally depraved Totally depraved
Predestination Gods wants to save all God chooses the elect will be saved, the rest will be damned God foreknows whom, with one’s free will, will choose Him and be saved.
Christ’s atonement Christ died for all Christ for the elect Christ died for all, but his atonement will only be valid for those who choose to believe.
Power of grace Resistible: People can reject grace and fall away Irresistible: The elect cannot reject grace and will never lose faith Resistible: People can choose to reject

Methodism: formed by Englishman John Wesley, who adhered to a strict and timely religions way of life, hence Methodist; it follows Arminian theology.

New Testament: The second part of the Christian Bible, speaking of the beginnings of Christianity. It includes the Gospels (sayings and stories of Jesus), Acts (history of the early Church), Epistles, and Revelation.

Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible, consisting of three parts: Torah (law, including Genesis, Exodus, etc.), Nevi’m (prophets, including Joshua, Isaiah, etc.), and Ketuvim (writings, including Psalms, Proverbs, etc.).

Orthodox Catholicism: from the Greek orthodoxas, meaning “true opinion or doctrine.” An Episcopal church, it was created after a schism with the western roman church (which became the Roman Catholic Church) due to refusing to honor the pope as the leader of the Church. Even though Adam and Eve sinned, man has not inherited the sins and is born good. However, man, now separated from God, is prone to sinning on Earth.

Man is born… In sin In innocence
Leadership Pope is the supreme leader, and is above all Patriarch of each separate church, but has no complete authority
Mary was born… Without sin by the grace of God, so could not sin (Immaculate Conception) Without sin, but had the potential to sin and yet did not sin.
Holy Spirit comes from… The Father and Son Father only

Pentecost: Christian holiday that corresponds with Jewish Shavu’ot or Jewish Feast of Weeks, held fifty days after Passover; Apostles had been celebrating the feast when the Holy Spirit descended and endowed them with gifts, such as speaking tongues. It is thought of the as the birth of the Church.

Pentecostalism: named after Pentecost. It sets apart from other sects in that stresses direct personal experience and strong feelings with God through the use of gifts. Speaking in tongues is the most widely used gift and congregations are known to become very passionate.

Presbyterianism: From the Greek presbuteros, meaning “elder.” Reformed Church that originated in Scotland and later spread to the US. It is characterized by its Presbyterian organization, in which congregations elect elders to lead. Churches are grouped together in larger and larger territories, ultimately united at the General Assembly. This differs from the appointed hierarchy of episcopal churches and individualized congregational churches.

Protestantism: Major groups of Christians that broke off from the Catholic Church; the Bible is the highest authority, and the pope is not recognized. It differs from Catholcism in that it Protestantism has only two sacraments (baptism and the Eucharist) and it believes that faith is the only way to salvation. In Catholicism, one must acquire faith through good deeds to be saved.

Reform: Church based on Calvinist and Zwinglian theology; called so In Europe, such as Dutch Reform and German Reform, etc. Branched off to Presbyterianism in Scotland.

Roman Catholicism: from the Greek katholikos, meaning “universal.” Structured as an Episcopal church, it is the oldest Christian branch, headed by the pope, or bishop of Rome, who claims infallible authority on all Catholics. Due to the fall of Adam and Eve, man is born in sin, but can be saved by God’s grace. The written word (including the Bible) and tradition (oral, etc.) are upheld. Faith and good acts are necessary for salvation; Veneration of the Virgin Mary and saints.

Sacraments: any of certain religious acts. Depending on a particular Christian sect, all or some of the following are considered sacraments: Baptism (purification of sin), penance (confession of sins and absolution), Eucharist (Mass/Lord’s Supper), confirmation (establishment as a conscious Christian), matrimony, holy orders (ordination of ministry leaders), and anointing of the sick.

Trinity: One God exists in three persons: The Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

Zwingli, Ulrich (1484-1531): Swiss Protestant Reformer

Zwinglianism: teachings of Ulrich Zwingli, including only that the literal meaning of the Bible should be used. He and Luther disagreed on one main point, the Eucharist. Luther believed Christ was in reality present in the bread and wine, but Zwingli believed Christ was spiritually present.


Adhan: Call to prayer by the muezzin.

Allah: Arabic term for God.

Caliph: Successor of the Prophet in spreading Islam.

Halal: Acts or substances that are permissible; usually used in relation to food, in which particular meats must be sacrificed correctly in order to be halal; opposite of haraam.

Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca, including circling the Ka’ba and traveling to other holy sites. All Muslims should perform hajj at least once in their lives.

Haraam: Acts or substances that are forbidden, such as alcohol and fornication; opposite of haraam.
Hijab: Mostly known as the required headscarf for Muslim women, it is also the general modest covering of the whole body, except for the hands and face, for both men and women.

Imam: The leader of the Muslim congregational salat. There is no ordination to become an imam, such as with priests. For Shi’ite Muslims, imams have a higher standing, in which the imam has divine connections.

Islam: The religion of allegiance to God and his prophets, and which God always intended for His creation, but which is derived in its present form from the prophetic ministry of Muhammad and from the revelation through him the Qu’ran. Its foundations are based on the five pillars: Shahadah, Salat, Ramadan, Zakat, and Hajj.

Ka’bah: The large black cube in biggest mosque in Mecca that is holy to all Muslims as it is of divine origin. Muslims everywhere year come here for the haj.
Madrasa: Islamic school for children and for adult studies.

Mecca: The holiest city for Muslims, in Saudi Arabia. It is the birthplace of Muhammad and home of the venerated Ka’ba.

Minaret: The tower of a mosque, where usually the muezzin recites the adhan.

Mosque: House of worship for Muslims. Known as masjid in Arabic.

Muezzin: A male who recites the adhan, calling forth all Muslims to each of the five prayers.

Muhammad: the last of a long line of prophets, others who include Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and Adam.

Qibla: Direction of the Ka’ba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Qur’an: the Holy Scripture that contains various sermons and stories used to teach the just ways to lead life.

Ramadan: the Islamic month in which Muslims fast from dawn till dusk each day. It ends with the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, a day of lots of good food and celebration.

Salat: Arabic word for prayer.

Shahadah: The fundamental profession of faith, in which Muslims state that there is no God but Allah, that He is one being, and that Muhammad is the last of His messengers.

Shi’ism: A major branch of Islam that regards Caliph Ali and his two sons Hasan and Hussein, as the legitimate successors of Muhammad, rejecting the first three caliphs; It differs with Sunni Islam in that Shi’ism, among other issues, recognize temporary marriage, pilgrimage to tombs of religious leaders, and the higher nature of the Imams.

Sufi’ism: Islamic mysticism

Sunni Islam: A major branch of Islam that stresses the sunna, or example, of the prophet Muhammad; it mainly opposes Shi’ism on the level of importance of the Imam.

Zakat: Charity


Ashkanazi: Jews of eastern and northern European origin.

Conservative Jews: Jews who keep some requirements of Mosaic law but adapt others to suit modern circumstances.

Hebrew: the ancient Canaanitic language of the Hebrews that has been revived as the official language of Israel

Judaism: A world religion whose name comes from the patriarch Judah. Judaism is an Abrahamic religion — a faith which recognizes Abraham as a Patriarch. Others include Christianity, Islam, and the Bahai. Although Jews comprise only about 0.2% of the human race, Jewish influence on the world has been vast — far more than their numbers would indicate.

Lubavitch: a large missionary Hasidic movement known for their hospitality, technological expertise, optimism and emphasis on religious study

Orthodox Jews: Jews that adhere to a relatively strict interpretation and application of the laws and ethics first canonized in the Talmudic texts (“Oral Torah”) and as subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and Acharonim.

Rabbi: From Hebrew phrase meaning “my master.” A leader of a Jewish synagogue.

Moorish- a style of architecture common in Spain from the 13th to 16th centuries; characterized by horseshoe-shaped arches

Reform Jews: liberal Jew who tries to adapt all aspects of Judaism to modern circumstances.

Rosh Hashanah: literally “Head of the Year,” celebration of the Jewish New Year, marked by feasting and the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn).

Sephardic Jews: Jews of Spanish and/or Portuguese origin.

Synagogue: A Jewish house of worship. From the Greek word for “gathering.”

Talmud: the collection of ancient rabbinic writings on Jewish law and tradition (the Mishna and the Gemara) that constitute the basis of religious authority in Orthodox Judaism

Torah: term referring to the first of three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures comprising the first five books of the Hebrew Bible considered as a unit (also known as the Pentateuch) or, more generally, referring to the entirety of Jewish law, literature and teaching.

Yiddish-A language primarily used by Jews in Europe. It uses the Hebrew alphabet, and includes a mixture of words from Hebrew, German and other European languages.

Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement, devoted to confession of sins and reconciliation with God. Yom Kippur occurs ten days after Rosh Hashanah and is marked by fasting from sundown to sundown, followed by a large breaking-of-the-fast feast. Together, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the High Holy Days. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year.


Buddhism– A world religion, founded in the 6th century BCE by a Hindu: Siddhartha Gautama, His followers called him “the Buddha” or “the enlightened one.” It has about 300 million followers, almost all located in Asia. Buddhism is currently experiencing a rapid growth in North America.

Four Noble Truths: The foundation of the Buddhas insight and teaching.

  1. Recognition of the all-pervasive and universal nature of dukkha
  2. Recognition of what gives rise to suffering, summarized in the thirst for the satisfaction in things that necessarily pass away, or for permanence, in the midst of the transient
  3. Dukkha can be brought to cessation, by the eradication of the thirst. This cessation is nirvana
  4. Eight fold path is the means to that eradication


Ashram: A place where devotees live, often the house of a guru.

Brahman: The power behind and within the cosmos that makes it function and live.

Bhagavad-Gita- The Holy book in Hinduism. Part of Mahabharata ,(“the great war”), where Krishna explains his theological ideas.

Caste: the major divisions of Hindu society.

Dharma: the duties of a person’s caste; virtue

Ganesh(a): The Hindu God of God fortune; the elephant headed son of Shiva and

Guru: A holy teacher. Occasionally, it is a Brahmin who teaches.

Karma: The Sanskrit term meaning “action.” It refers to a concept in which the results of one’s actions accumulate over one’s life. Upon death, an individual’s karma-this store of the results of actions-determines whether one is reborn in a higher or lower status.

Krishna: A god who is one of the avatars of Vishnu. (See Vishnu)

Mantra: A sequence of sounds used as a focus of meditation. The most famous mantra is that of “om” which consists of the three sounds “aa”, “oo”, “mm”.

Om: The most famous mantra used as a meditational device in many forms of yoga. This sound is believed to be an aspect of the creation of the cosmos.

Parvati: One of Shiva’s wives. She represents erotic and sensual love, the love of courtship and wooing. She is the mother of Ganesh

Priest: A person, usually a Brahmin, who conducts religious practices.

Samsara (also Buddhist): The cycle of death and rebirth in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Sanskrit: The language in which the Vedas and other Hindu sacred texts are written. It is an old Indo-European language like Greek and Latin.

Shiva: One of the two main gods of Hinduism. He is associated with a number of goddesses, the main four are Parvati, Umma, Durga, and Kali.

Upanishads: The latest of the writings to be considered part of the Vedic period, written between the eighth and third centuries BCE. These are collections of stories, discussions, and instructions addressing issues of the relationship between the human and the ultimate realms.

Vedas: The oldest collection of Hindu sacred texts. They include the best-known Rig-Veda. They were written between 1500 and 1000 bce.

Temple: Place of Worship

Vishnu: One of two main gods in Hinduism. He is usually worshiped in the form of one of his avatars, Krishna and Rama.


Adi Buddha: The primordial Buddha. The concept existed since very early in Buddhism but evolved in esoteric Buddhism only.

Agama : A title given to those scriptures that form part of the Sutra Pitaka in Sanskrit Buddhist tradition. Usually four agamas are recognized – the Dirgha Agama, the Madhyma Agama,the Samyukta Agama and the Ekottarika Agama.

Buddha : Refers to one who has become awakened and attained nirvana through eradication of impurities. He will no more be reborn in the cycle of samsara.

Bodhi : A Sanskrit term used for enlightenment. The term is generally applied to those individuals who have understood the effectiveness of four noble truths and achieved the results of completing the eightfold path.

Dharma : A term used for Teachings of the Buddha.

Dharmacakra : The ‘Wheel of Teaching’, it is a Buddhist symbol that represents Buddha’s teachings.

Dukha : It is the first of the four noble truth which in its simplest form means suffering, however, in Buddhism, it also means that life’s experience are transient and yield unsatisfactory results. Dukha is also one of the three marks of existence.

Han Dynasty : A period in Chinese history when Buddhism entered the country.

Karma : A Sanskrit term used for action. In Buddhism, it is believed that every free will activity accrues result, which is in keeping with the nature of the act itself.

Laughing Buddha : Chinese way of presenting Maitreya, believed to be the future Buddha.

Mahavastu : Sanskrit text, the English title of which is the ‘Great Story’. It belongs to Mahasamghika School and Avadana class of literature.

Mahavibhasa : Short title for Abhidharma-mahavibhasa-sastra, an Sravstivadan Abhidharma commentary.

Mahayanasamgraha : A text written by Asanga and highlighting the fundamental philosophical tenets of Yogcara school.

Maitreya : This is what the future Buddha is known as.

Manas : Sanskrit term used for mind.

Mantra : A term derived from Sanskrit, mantra is a syllable, word or phrase that serves as a means of manifesting power so as to ward off evil, gain favours or assist in generating positive meditational states.

Mudra : Hands or body gestures meant to depict some aspect of Buddhist teachings in a symbolic manner.

Nirvana : A term from Sanskrit language which is used for goal of Buddhist religious practice.

Parinirvana : A term that refers to the final nirvana or death of Lord Buddha.

Prajna : Sanskrit term used for wisdom. It is one of the most important goals for all Buddhist schools.

Samsara: A term used both in Hinduism and Buddhism and referring to a universe that has existed eternally, has no ultimate creation and knows no final destruction.

Sila: A term usually meaning ‘conduct’ or ‘virtue’. It refers to rules of ethical training for Buddhists.

Vairocana : One of the five celestial Buddha of the Mahayana tradition whose name means ‘shinning out’. In quiet a few tradition, he is also taken as Aid Buddha or the pry mordial Buddha.

Zazen: A religious practice in Zen Buddhism which means ‘sitting in meditation’.

Zendo: A term in Japanese, which refers to meditation hall. It is present in all Zen Monasteries.


The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions