Anyone reading English translations of Buddhist texts will encounter a host of names, terms and phrases whose meanings are not clear even though they appear in English. Buddhism is famous for its specialized terminology and translation alone may not communicate its full meaning. East Asian Buddhist diction is layered with several languages -- Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese -- and the only way to make one's way through this linguistic maze without getting lost is with the aid of a good dictionary.
The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, a revised and expanded version of A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts (1983), is a welcome addition that serves this purpose. Written clearly for the general reader, the dictionary contains over 2,700 entries. While it is designed primarily for use with the Soka Gakkai's translations of Nichiren's works, the dictionary contains a wealth of terms found in all other traditions of Buddhism. Definitions are given for technical terms, historical figures, doctrinal texts, institutions and place names. The entries provide complete cross-references so that readers may know and further pursue meanings of term equivalents as rendered in other ways or languages. Ten appendixes provide maps and word lists that enable the reader to find terms in English, Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, or Japanese.
Like all Buddhist masters, Nichiren presented his particular message in the wider context of other Buddhist teachings and practices. To know the particular, one must also understand the general context, and the dictionary, in addressing both levels, provides essential knowledge not only for students of Nichiren Buddhism, but for anyone reading Buddhist texts.