A number of different Sino-Japanese terms appearing in Sōtōshū gyōji kihan have been translated into English in Standard Observances of the Soto Zen School as "monastery." In general, we reserve the term "monastery" for a place where monks live together and engage in communal observances under a single set of rules and procedures. When ji 寺 or jiin 寺院 refers to a place where a resident priest (jūshoku 住職) lives with his wife and children, we translate those terms as "temple."
1. In Japan the word ji 寺 applies almost exclusively to Buddhist institutions, but in Chinese it applied to a variety of government offices and religious establishments, including what in English might be called monasteries, temples, shrines, and mosques.
2. In the original Chinese, similarly, the word in 院, which coupled with ji寺 forms the binome jiin 寺院 (translated herein as "monasteries and temples"), referred to any courtyard or walled compound, within which might be a home, school, government office, or any other institution housed in one or more buildings.
3. The word garan 伽藍 is a truncated Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit saghārāma, meaning a "forest" or "grove" in which members of the Buddhist sangha dwelled.
4. The term sōrin 叢林, literally a "thicket" (sō 叢) that is a "grove of trees" (rin 林) (the latter term also indicates a "gathering place") is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit saghārāma, meaning a "forest" or "grove" in which members of the Buddhist sangha dwelled.
5. Bon'en 梵苑 means "pure" (bon 梵) "garden" or "park" (en 苑). The reference to Buddhist monasteries as "gardens" recalls the story of Anāthapiνδika, a wealthy layman who gave a park named Jeta's Grove (Gionrin 祇園林, Gion shōja 祇園精舍, S. Jetāvana) in Śrāvastī to the Buddha to build a monastery.
6. Bonsetsu 梵刹 means "pure" (bon 梵) "monastery" (setsu刹). The original meaning of setsu刹 is "flag pole." It may refer to markers that were used to establish the perimeter of a "pure" area where monks resided during the rainy season retreat in India.
7. A sōdō 僧堂 or "sangha hall" was originally just one building within a monastery compound, but in the Edo period (1600-1868) in Japan it came by synecdoche to refer to a training monastery as a whole, especially one that had a meditation hall (zendō 禪堂) but no sangha hall proper.
8. The term sanmon 山門, literally "mountain gate," refers both to the main gate of a monastery and, by synecdoche, to the monastery as a whole. It often has the meaning "this monastery," or "here within the gates of this monastery."