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Buddhism A to Z: "G" Entries

Gautama/Gotama (Buddha)

The family name of Shakyamuni Buddha. His full name was Siddhartha Gautama. Upon becoming a Buddha, he took the name 'Shakyamuni' (see entry).

1) Ch.chau da mwo , 2) Skt. gautama, 3) Pali gotama.

See also: Shakyamuni (Buddha), Buddha.


Still. still, barren waste--a dream.
Then, now, triumph, loss--lazy thought measures.
Wild grass, idle flowers--picked how many?
Bitter rain, sour wind--how many broken hearts?

At night with firefly light, I come and go.
At dawn the cock crows; I hide away my form.
Regret from the first not tilling the mind-ground:
Two streams are caused to fall--green mountain tears.
(PS 83)

"Some people say they don't believe in ghosts. Why do they say that? It is because they are ghosts themselves, and they are afraid others will recognize them as such. And so they are always telling others not to believe in such things as ghosts. I often say, "Basically there is no real difference between Buddhas and ghosts. If you are evil to the ultimate point, then you are a ghost. If you are good to the ultimate point, then you are a Buddha. If you cultivate to the point of becoming enlightened, then you are a Buddha. If you don't get enlightened and keep being stupid, then you are a ghost. Basically there is no difference.

"Some people believe in the Buddha and say that Buddhas exist. But they don't believe there are ghosts... 'I haven't seen any ghosts,' they argue, `and so I don't believe any such things exist.'

"I ask them, 'Well, have you seen Buddhas?' I can safely ask them that because if they haven't seen ghosts, they haven't seen Buddhas. And so I say to them, 'You have never seen Buddhas either, so why do you believe in them?...

"They say, 'I have seen Buddha-images.' Well, there are pictures of ghosts around too. If you see Buddha-images and, therefore, believe in Buddhas, then when you see pictures of ghosts, shouldn't you believe in ghosts? It's strange: such people are more stupid than animals. I'll tell you right now that those who don't believe in ghosts are that way because they don't have the wisdom to believe ghosts exist. They don't have the genuine, perfectly interpenetrating and unobstructed wisdom to understand this principle. If you don't believe in ghosts, you shouldn't believe in the Buddha either. There just won't be anything at all. How will that be? Of course, originally there isn't anything at all. Basically, there is no self and also no people, no Buddhas, no ghosts, nothing at all. But you have to reach that state. You must truly have achieved the level of no self. It can't be that when talking there's no self, but when it comes time to eat, you eat more than anyone else..." (HD 83-84)

The ghostly crew delights in hate,
Deluded by effects, confused about cause.
Their ignorance and upsidedownness
Grows greater each day, deeper each month.

(TD 50)

"Ghosts are masses of yin energy which have shadow and no form or form and no shadow. Perhaps you have seen a dark shadow, but when you looked closer, it disappeared. Or perhaps you've seen what seemed like a person, but which vanished in the blink of an eye. This phenomenon is difficult to understand.

"There are as many different kinds of ghosts as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Some ghosts are affluent and reign as kings over the realms of ghosts; some ghosts are poverty-stricken and devoid of authority--it is often the poor ghosts who bother people. If you want to investigate ghosts in detail, work hard at cultivation,open the Five Eyes and develop the Six Spiritual Powers, and then explore for yourself." (TD 51)

1) Ch. gwei , e gwei , 2) Skt. preta, 3) Pali peta, 4) Alternate Translations: hungry ghosts, dead departed spirit.

See also: Six Paths of Rebirth.

BTTS References: SPV 65-6; TD 50-52; HD 83-84; EDR III 26-27; PS 83; SS VII? 155-176.


According to Buddhist teachings, the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is not the One God, the Creator, nor is he omnipotent and omniscient. However, Buddhism does not deny his existence or the existence of his heaven.

There is no creator and there are no creations.
It is only from karma and thoughts that things are produced.
How can we know it is that way?
Because other than that there isn't anything at all.


"Most religions say that there is a ruler who rules over all the ten thousand things between heaven and earth, who is the creator, and that the ten thousand matters and things are his creation. But in actual fact there is no one who can control all the ten thousand matters and things. Therefore, the Flower Adornment Sutra says, 'There is no creator and there are no creations.' How does it all come about then? 'It is only from karma and thoughts that things are produced.' Everything exists because one gives rise to doubts, creates karma, and undergoes retribution. From where does karma arise? It is created from false thinking. The very beginning, the lack of enlightenment, is ignorance. Because of ignorance, confusion and doubt arise. If there were no ignorance, there would be no confusion and doubt. Having confusion and doubt, one produces false thought. Having false thought, one creates all kinds of karma. In creating karma, if you plant good causes, you reap good effects. If you plant bad causes, you reap bad effects. If you plant causes which are neither good nor bad, you reap a retribution which is neither good nor bad. And so of all things which happen to people, there is none which is not of their own creation. No one tells them to create these things. No one controls them. They create them all themselves. Therefore, the reason you cannot get off the turning wheel of birth and death is that you follow the karma you create. According to your karma you receive your retribution. Birth after birth, death after death, death after death, birth after birth.

"'How can we know it is that way? Because other than that there isn't anything at all.' If you depart from this doctrine, there isn't another doctrine which can explain the way things are. For instance, if it were as other religions explain it, that we are controlled by a God, since there is a God in control, it has nothing to do with us at all. If in every situation we are being controlled by someone, then whether we do good or bad has nothing to do with us. But when the time comes to undergo the retribution, it is we ourselves who must undergo it. That is unprincipled.

"That is why it is explained as being our own karma. For instance, if there is a person who goes and tells another person to commit a murder, although the murderer commits an offense, half the offense lies with the one who told him to do it. If we say that God controls us, that in all matters it is God who rules, then half of the karmic offenses we create should be God's. If it is not like that, and instead, of the things he tells us to do, those with merit belong to him and those with offenses are ours, that would be unreasonable.

"What one creates has nothing to do with anyone else. If you yourself do good deeds, then you receive a reward. If you do bad things, then you undergo retribution. That is reasonable. And so in every move we make we are certainly not being controlled by any God. If we really were being controlled by God, then he should not tell us to do all kinds of evil things. We should do all kinds of good things in order for it to be right, because God does not want people to do evil. If he doesn't have the ability to govern right and wrong, and yet the offenses we create are ours and the merit we accrue reverts to him, that is totally illogical.

"And so we people don't have any other person controlling us nor is there any God controlling us. It is our karma and false thinking which controls us. What proof is there of this? Take a look. If there were someone controlling us then what we do every day should be decided, but on the contrary whatever we want to do we do as we please. If people had a God controlling them, then all living beings should have a God controlling them. And in controlling them, he should teach them to do good things; he should not teach them to do bad things. And so why would God make a cat? Why would he make a mouse? Why does the cat like to eat mice? Why does the mouse like to steal things? From this it can be seen that it is all their own karma that has caused them to undergo the retributions.

"Take fish for example. They can swim wherever they want in the water. They are also very independent. But fish in the water are not aware of the water. They consider it their world. People in the air are not aware of the air. People live in the air, but they don't even see it. To them it is invisible. That is the same way fish are in water. This all because whatever karma you create causes you to undergo that retribution. It certainly is not the case that there is a God controlling you. Nor is there a Buddha telling you what to do. Buddhas don't pay attention to such small matters. Bodhisattvas also don't pay attention. How much the less would a God be able to watch over you." (FAS, lecture Oct. 5-6, 1975)

For a story of God's origins as an old woman, see Six Desire Heavens--Trayastrimsa.

1) Ch. shang-di , tyan , 2) Skt. isvara, 3) Pali, 4) Alternate Translations: Heavenly Lord.

See also: gods, creation.

BTTS References: FAS lecture Oct. 5-6, 1975.


In the Six Desire Heavens there are the Five Signs of Decay.
The third dhyana heaven suffers the sister of wind.
No matter how you cultivate, even up to the Heaven of Neither Cognition Nor Non-Cognition,
It's still better to be born in the Western Land and then come back again.

(FAS Ch11 69-70)

Gods, according to Buddhist teaching, live in various heavens. They are not immortal or omnipotent. They do have long lifespans and various spiritual powers. Any one can be reborn as a god by generating the appropriate good karma; however, gods are not enlightened. They eventually die and are reborn in lower realms according to their karma.

The Six Desire and Brahma gods,

With Five precepts and Ten Good Acts,

Plant seeds that have outflows,

And so the turning wheel is hard to stop.

(TD 39)

The Buddha said:

Ananda, each and every being in all these heavens is ordinary [and not a sage]. They are still answerable for their karmic retribution. When they have answered for their debts, they must once again enter rebirth.

(SS VII 236-237)

The gods constitute one of the Six Paths of Rebirth and are one of the Ten Dharma Realms (see those entries). The heavens in which the gods reside are divided into three basic categories: 1) the desire-heavens, of which there are six (see Six Desire Heavens), 2) Form Heavens, also called the Four Dhyana Heavens (see also Four Dhyanas), and 3) formless heavens, of which there are four also (see Four Formless Realms).

1) Ch. tyan , tyan ren , (shen) , 2) Skt. deva, 3) Pali devaputta, 4) Alternate Translations: angels, heavenly spirits.

See also: God, Six Desire Heavens, Four Dhyanas, Four Formless Realms,Six Paths of Rebirth, Ten Dharma Realms, creation,cosmology, time.

BTTS References: SPV 209-10; UW 220-224; FAS-PII(2) 141-144; FAS Ch11 69-72; SS VII 198-238.

Good and Wise Advisor

Good man, in seeking out a good and wise advisor, you should not grow weary. In seeing a good and wise advisor, do not give rise to a sense of satiation or boredom. In inquiring from a good and wise advisor, do not shrink from toil and suffering. In drawing close to a good and wise advisor, do not harbor thoughts of retreat. In making offerings to a good and wise advisor, do not rest. In receiving teachings from a good and wise advisor, do not distort his teachings. In studying a good and wise advisor's principles, do not give rise to doubts. In hearing a good and wise advisor explain the doors to liberation, do not be hesitant. . . . Toward a good and wise advisor, produce a mind of deep faith and veneration, without changing. (EDR VII 142)

"If you want to have some realization, it is essential to meet a bright-eyed good and wise advisor, who can instruct you in methods for increasing your skills. Then you can make progress day by day. . . .

"How are you to know who is a good and wise advisor? A good and wise advisor would never plaster a sign on his forehead saying, 'Do you recognize me? . . . I am a bright-eyed good and wise advisor." If someone did in fact advertise and claim to be a good and wise advisor, he wouldn't be a genuine one. As to a genuine good and wise advisor, if you recognize him, then you recognize him; but if you don't recognize him, he won't put any pressure on you by saying, 'You should draw near to me. . . .' A true good and wise advisor wouldn't act like a patent medicine man selling tonics. He wouldn't praise himself. If you recognize him, that's fine; if you don't recognize him, that's all right, too. He won't introduce himself.

"Since that's the way it is, how are you to know who really is a good and wise advisor. It is not easy to know...As a matter of fact, in the entire world there are very, very few good and wise advisors. . . . A good and wise advisor teaches people to walk on the right road. He does not teach people to take deviant paths. What is meant by the right road? He teaches people not to kill, not to steal, not to engage in sexual misconduct,not to lie, and not to take intoxicants. He would be a bad advisor if he said, 'Wine is no problem. When the Buddha included the prohibition against wine in the Five Precepts, he was talking to people who were as fond of wine as they were of their very lives. He wasn't referring to ordinary people.' To speak that way is teaching deviant knowledge and deviant views. . . .

"The bad advisor also says to you, 'As to your sexual desire, although the Buddha said that desire and lust are not good things, if you can employ sexual desire to an extreme, you can become enlightened too.' That is also an example of deviant knowledge and deviant views. And so when the bad advisor goes on and continues to tell you to do what is improper, he is indicating to you that he is not a good and wise advisor. . . .

"One who is without greed, anger, and stupidity is a good and wise advisor. One who can actually cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom is a good and wise advisor. If you are observing to see if someone is a good and wise advisor, see if he is selfish. If he is, he is not a good and wise advisor. If he is after profit for himself, he is not a good and wise advisor. The person who isn't selfish and has no desire to benefit himself is a good and wise advisor." (LY I 49-51)

Good man, the good and wise advisor is like a kind mother, in that he gives rise to the seed of Buddhahood. He is like a kind father in that he vastly benefits (all beings). He is like a nurse, in that he protects one and stops one from doing evil. He is like a teacher, in that he shows one what a Bodhisattva should learn. He is like a good guide, in that he can open up the path of the paramitas. He is like a skilled physician,in that he can heal the sickness of the afflictions. He is like the snowy mountains, in that he makes grow the medicine of all-wisdom. He is like a valiant general,in that he banishes all terror. He is like a ferryman, in that he enables one to get out of the torrent of birth and death. He is like a boat captain, in that he can take one to the jewelled continent of wisdom. Good man, you should, with proper mindfulness, reflect upon all good and wise advisors in this way. (EDR VII 147)


1) Ch. shan jr shr , 2) Skt. kalyanamitra, 3) Pali kalyana /kallana-mitta, 4) Alternate Translations: wise counsel, good friend, counsellor, someone with knowledge, wisdom, experience; intimate friends, good mentor, (bright-eyed) knowing one, spiritual guide/advisor, good companion, honest and pure friend.

BTTS References: LY I 50-2; PS 112-114; EDR II xii-xiv, 2-3, 6-7, 83-84; FAS Ch24 42-43; PB I (intro pp: across frontis--same as EDR, 2nd intro pp.); EDR IV 113; EDR V 69-71; EDR VI 82-83; EDR VII 11, 142ff-155; "He wei shan-jr-shr," Sywan-hwa shang ren kai shr lu, v. 5, pp. 82-83; VBS #198, p. 2.

Good Roots

"Good roots are another name for your Dharma-body and your wisdom. Good roots are the firm foundation which comes from cultivation. A good foundation causes your Dharma-body to manifest, your wisdom to increase, and your originally existent real mark prajna to function.

"It is essential, however, that you plant good roots before the Triple Jewel in order to reap the fruit of Bodhi. If you plant good roots with non-Buddhist religions, you will not be able to reap any ultimate benefit, no matter how many good roots you plant or how long you nurture them." (VS 50)

1) Ch. shan gen , 2) Skt. kusala-mula, 3) Pali kusala-mula, 4) Alternate Translations: wholesome faculties, the basis or root of goodness or merit.

See also: karma, causation.

BTTS References: VS 50; DFS Ch3 753;

Great Compassion Mantra

One of the most widely used and most efficacious of all Buddhist mantras, the Great compassion mantra is a Dharma taught by the Bodhisattva Who Regards the World's Sounds (see Avalokitesvara (Bodhisattva)). The teachings on the Great Compassion Mantra are found in the Dharani Sutra (see entry).

The text of the mantra can be found in the Dharani Sutra, pp. 40-43, and in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas Recitation Handbook, pp. 30-33.

The Bodhisattva Who Regards the World's Sounds again addressed the Buddha, saying, 'World-Honored One, if Humans and Gods recite and hold the phrases of the Great Compassion Mantra, then when they approach the end of life, all the Buddhas of the ten directions will come to take them by the hand to rebirth in whatever Buddhaland they wish according to their desire.'

He further said to the Buddha, 'World-Honored One, should any living being who recites and holds the


Wood-block of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, according to the teaching of the Great Compassion Mantra

spiritual mantra of great compassion fall into the three evil paths, I vow not to realize the right enlightenment. Should any living being who recites and holds the Spiritual Mantra of Great Compassion not be reborn in any Buddhaland, I vow not to realize the right enlightenment. Should any living being who recites and holds the Spiritual Mantra of Great Compassion not obtain unlimited samadhis and eloquence, I vow not to realize the right enlightenment. Should any living being who recites and holds the Spiritual Mantra of Great Compassion not obtain the fruits of whatever is sought in this very life, then he cannot have been making proper use of the Dharani of the Great Compassion Heart.' (DS 30-31)

1) Ch. da bei jou , 2) Skt. .

See also: Dharani Sutra, mantra, dharani, Avalokitesvara (Bodhisattva).

BTTS References: TT 133; DS 30-39, 40-43, 60-66.

Great Vehicle

See Mahayana and Hinayana Compared.

gung-fu (kungfu)

Gung-fu is a Chinese word which means 'skill' or 'ability'. It can be used in the ordinary sense or to apply to spiritual ability, or as is currently popular, to refer to ability in the martial arts.

1) Ch. gung fu .

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