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An important Chinese Mahayana Buddhist school founded in the sixth century; the scripture on which it rests is a discourse of the Buddha known as the Lotus Sutra. The tradition was later brought to Japan, where it is known as Tendai.

Filed in Buddhism


Pronounced “TEH-zay.” A Christian worship service known for silence, simple music, candle lighting, prayer and meditation. It is drawn from the practices of a monastic community founded in the Burgundy region of France during World War II. Taizé emphasizes Christian unity. People from Roman Catholic, Protestant and other traditions from all over the world flock to Taizé to take part in worship, service and reflection.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Protestantism

taking refuge

In Buddhism, taking refuge is an important act of commitment in which a person proclaims his faith in the Three Jewels — Buddha, the dharma and the Sangha. See Three Jewels.

Filed in Buddhism


An object believed to have magical powers.

Filed in Religion and culture


In Judaism, the extensive written body of interpretation and commentary by scholarly ancient rabbis of the oral law believed to have been given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai. The Talmud is made up of the Mishnah, which is the written version of early Jewish oral law, and the Gemara, which interprets and comments on the Mishnah and other traditional texts. The Talmud constitutes the basis of religious authority in Orthodox Judaism and is distinct from the written law of the Torah.

Filed in Judaism


The technical name for the entire Hebrew Bible. It includes the Torah, the Prophets and the Sacred Writings, organized into 24 books.

Filed in Judaism


Pronounced “Dow.” The ever-changing energy of the universe that flows all around in the form of nature. In Taoism, Tao is unknowable and therefore cannot be defined. In Confucianism, Tao is the correct manner of conduct that stems from universal standards and ideals that govern right and wrong.

Filed in Confucianism, Taoism


Pronounced “DOW-ism.” A school of philosophical and religious teachings that stem from Tao. Taoism is one of the major religions in China, although it was forcefully suppressed during Maoist Communist rule. When tolerance of some religions was restored in China in the early 1980s, Taoism began to flourish again.

Filed in Taoism


A set of cards used in fortunetelling. It is usually made up of 78 playing cards, including 22 cards, the Major Arcana, that depict the elements, vices and virtues in sometimes elaborate drawings.

Filed in Religion and culture


Pronounced “tau-HEED.” The concept that denotes the oneness and unity of God; it is the basis of Islam.

Filed in Islam


A building used for worship or religious purposes. Uppercase when part of a formal name or when referring to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. The word temple is used differently in different religious traditions. It is the place of worship for Hindus, Buddhists and Jews, although Orthodox Jews and many Conservative Jews believe the only temple is the one destroyed in Jerusalem and so they call their congregational buildings synagogues. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, temples are sacred buildings with restricted access; they differ in purpose from meetinghouses, where weekly worship takes place.

Filed in Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Religion and culture

Temple Mount

The area in the old city of Jerusalem that housed ancient Jewish temples. See also Al-Aqsa.

Filed in Judaism

Ten Commandments

The biblical edicts handed to Moses by God atop Mount Sinai. They are the basis of Mosaic law. They are found in Exodus 20:2-17, 34:12-26, and Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Exodus 20 is the most commonly quoted version. The commandments are numbered differently by Jews and by different Christian traditions, including Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Christians. The different numbering and wording (according to the biblical translation chosen) is one factor that has made public posting of the Ten Commandments controversial.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Judaism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism


A government ruled by religious authority or people who believe they are carrying out divine directions.

Filed in Government and politics


Belief or philosophical systems that maintain that access to “divine wisdom” may be reached through mystical or spiritual experiences.

Filed in Other faiths


Pronounced “teh-ruh-VAA-dah.” One of the two main forms of Buddhism, it means “the way of the elders.” (The other is Mahayana.) Theravada is an early tradition directed to the monastic community. Its ideal is the arhat, the individual who attains enlightenment and thus escapes the cycle of rebirth through practices involving ethical conduct, meditation and insight. Its scriptures are those of the Pali canon, held to represent the earliest direct teachings of the Buddha. Theravada Buddhism is the form found in most of Southeast Asia (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Laos). An adherent of the Theravada school is a Theravadin.

Filed in Buddhism


One of the major gods of Ásatrú. His main role is one of protection, and he is considered the god of everyday people. Although many myths portray him fighting giants (symbols of dangerous natural forces), historical sources tie him to agriculture. His hammer, Mjölnir, is a symbol of protection, blessing and community; most followers of Ásatrú wear it as a sign of faith. Do not use imagery and quotes from Marvel comic books and films to illustrate Ásatrú belief in Thor.

Filed in Other faiths

Three Jewels

In Buddhism, the three objects Buddhists take refuge in or give themselves to: the Buddha (both the historical Buddha and the Buddha-nature that is in every sentient being), the dharma (the Buddha’s teachings as well as universal law) and the Sangha (the monastic community as well as the wider community of Buddhists everywhere). See taking refuge.

Filed in Buddhism


Pronounced “ti-PIH-tuh-kah.” The “Three Baskets,” or collections, of early Buddhist texts that make up the Pali canon, the scriptures of the Theravada school of Buddhism. The Vinaya Pitaka lists regulations for monks and nuns, the Sutta Pitaka consists of discourses from the historical Buddha or his disciples, and the Abhidhamma Pitaka presents a systematic organization of the teachings.

Filed in Buddhism

Tisha B’Av

Pronounced “TI-shah Bav.” Literally, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. Jews fast and mourn the destruction of the two ancient Temples.

Filed in Judaism

titles, religious

See religious titles.

Filed in Religion and culture


The Jewish sacred writings found in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Also called “the Five Books of Moses,” the Torah is copied by specialized scribes onto parchment scrolls and is treated with great care and respect by Jewish congregations. The term Torah is sometimes also used to describe the larger body of Jewish law and Scripture.

Filed in Judaism


A representation of a person or likeness such as an animal or plant that is revered by a tribe or group. It is a part of many American Indian and African religious practices.

Filed in Other faiths, Religion and culture

Transcendental Meditation

A form of meditation made popular by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced it in 1955. TM is acceptable on second reference.

Filed in Hinduism, Other faiths


Adjective describing people whose gender identity/expression differs from the biological features they were born with. Includes preoperative and postoperative transsexuals, female and male cross-dressers, drag queens or kings, female or male impersonators and intersex people. The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association Stylebook Supplement advises, “When writing about a transgender person, use the name and personal pronouns consistent with the way the person lives publicly.” Do not necessarily equate transsexual with transgender. Transsexuals are people who identify themselves as members of the opposite sex and who acquire the physical characteristics of that gender.

Filed in Gender and sexuality


The doctrine that the bread and wine are physically transformed into the body and blood of Christ when consecrated in the Eucharist. The Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox churches believe in transubstantiation. See consubstantiation.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy


This key doctrine in Christianity says that God, the Son and the Holy Spirit together make up the one Godhead. The exact nature and definition of the Trinity were central in the split between the Eastern and Western Christian churches.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism


Pronounced “TOO-bi She-VOT.” Literally, the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat. This Jewish holiday is also called the New Year for Trees.

Filed in Judaism


Pronounced “tül-koo.” In Tibetan Buddhism, an incarnate or reincarnated lama.

Filed in Buddhism


Cloth wrapped around the head as cultural attire in many regions of the world, the turban has religious significance for Sikhs. Observant Sikh men and some women wrap their long uncut hair (an article of faith) in a turban. Nearly every person who wears a turban in America is Sikh.

Filed in Sikhism

Twelve Apostles

See Apostles.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Mormonism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism

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