Definitions

Roshi

Roshi

[roh-shee]
(Chinese: Laoshi, Sanskrit: Rishi) is a Japanese honorific title used in Zen Buddhism that literally means "old teacher" or "elder master" and usually denotes the person who gives spiritual guidance to a Zen sangha. Despite the literal meaning, the title has nothing to do with the actual age of the individual who receives it and is used to indicate respect and veneration.

The title is generally granted to an individual who has realized a great understanding of the Dharma, and most roshi have undergone many years of arduous training under a master. Only a roshi may certify another as a roshi. In the Rinzai school of Zen, a monastic becomes a roshi when they have received inka, indicating they have completed of koan study and received Dharma transmission from their master. In the Soto school of Zen, a monastic becomes a roshi when they have received shiho, indicating acknowledgement of actualization of the precepts and receipt of Dharma transmission. In the Sanbo Kyodan school of Zen a lay disciple becomes a roshi when they have received inka, indicating they have passed the koan curriculum and received Dharma transmission. In all cases the title of roshi indicates the person has met the teaching standards and become an independent teacher of their lineage. Most Zen communities in the United States confer the title in line with the protocol related to their Japanese Zen roots, and in most instances it is used synonymously with the term Zen master.

Chinese Chan Buddhism uses the semantically related title Shifu (師父, literally "master father" or "father of masters", or 師傅,literally "mater teacher or teacher of masters"; both pronounced shi1fu5) for an honorific title for highest masters, but it also may be used for respectful address to monks and nuns generally.

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