Ground (Dzogchen)

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In the Dzogchen tradition in Tibetan Buddhism ground (Tibetan: གཞི, Wylie: gzhi; IAST: āśraya[1] or sthāna[note 1][note 2]) is the primordial state. It is an essential component of the Dzogchen tradition for both the Bonpo and the Nyingmapa.[2][3] Knowledge of this Ground is called rigpa.[note 3]


The Tibetan: གཞི, Wylie: gzhi has been rendered as 'Base', 'Basis', 'Ground' and 'Ground of Being' amongst other English glosses. According to Dudjom the original Sanskrit-term is āśraya (IAST; Sanskrit Devanagari: आश्रय; Etymology: आ- √श्रि),[5][note 1] but it could also be sthāna.

Sam van Schaik states that gzhi is to be distinguished from kun gzhi. In the Seminal Heart series a distinction is made between kun gzhi, c.q. ālaya, "the base of it all", the samsaric basis of consciousness, of all the samsaric appearances; and gzhi, "the nirvanic basis known as the ground."[6][note 4]

Three qualities[edit]

According to the Dzogchen-teachings, the Ground or Buddha-nature has three qualities:[7][8]

(In Goodman & Davidson 1992,) Herbert V. Guenther points out that this Ground is both a static potential and a dynamic unfolding. They give a process-orientated translation, to avoid any essentialist associations, since

ngo-bo (facticity) has nothing to do with nor can even be reduced to the (essentialist) categories of substance and quality; [...] rang-bzhin (actuality) remains open-dimensional, rather than being or turning into a rigid essence despite its being what it is; and that thugs-rje (resonance) is an atemporal sensitivity and response, rather than a distinct and narrowly circumscribed operation.[9]

The 19th/20th-century Tibetan Buddhist scholar, Shechen Gyaltsap Gyurme Pema Namgyal, sees the Buddha-nature as ultimate truth,[10] nirvana, which is constituted of profundity, primordial peace and radiance:

Buddha-nature is immaculate. It is profound, serene, unfabricated suchness, an uncompounded expanse of luminosity; nonarising, unceasing, primordial peace, spontaneously present nirvana.[11]

The Prayer of Kuntuzangpo[edit]

Beings are trapped in samsara by not recognizing the ground. The Prayer of Kuntuzangpo from the Gonpa Zangthal states:

From the beginning you beings are deluded

Because you do not recognize

The awareness of the ground[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b According to A Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 2003, 2004[web 1] "āśraya" is a synonym for ālaya-vijñāna, the "store-house-consciousness".
  2. ^ Other translations of gzhi: Chinese: 基 (Pinyin: Ji); Korean 의지 (ŭiji); Japanese:エジ (eji)
  3. ^ Wylie: rig pa; IAST: vidyā)[4]
  4. ^ Sam van Schaik: "....the Seminal Heart distinction between two types of basis, the nirvanic basis known as the ground (gzhi) and the samsaric basis of consciousness, the ālaya (kun gzhi).[6]


  1. ^ Longchen Rabjam 1998, p. 288.
  2. ^ Rossi 1999, p. 52.
  3. ^ Dudjom Rinpoche & Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje 1991, p. 354.
  4. ^ Dudjom Rinpoche & Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje 1991, p. 336.
  5. ^ Dudjom Rinpoche & Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje 1991, p. 354 Index of Technical Terms.
  6. ^ a b Schaik 2004.
  7. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2001, p. 44.
  8. ^ Petit 1999, p. 78-79.
  9. ^ Goodman & Davidson 1992, p. 14.
  10. ^ Rabjam, Shechen (2007). The Great Medicine: Steps in Meditation on the Enlightened Mind. Boston: Shambhala: p. 21
  11. ^ Rabjam, Shechen (2007). The Great Medicine: Steps in Meditation on the Enlightened Mind. Boston: Shambhala: p. 4
  12. ^ Ranjung Yeshe 2006, p. Chapter 9.


Published sources[edit]

  • Dudjom Rinpoche; Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje (1991), Gyurme Dorje with Matthew Kapstein (ed.), The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: its Fundamentals and History. Two Volumes. Translated and, Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-087-8
  • Goodman, Steven D.; Davidson, Ronald M. (1992), Tibetan Buddhism: reason and revelation, SUNY Press, ISBN 0-7914-0785-3
  • Hubbard, Jamie (2008), Original Purity and the Arising of Delusion (PDF)
  • Ranjung Yeshe (2006), Quintessential Dzogchen, translated by Kunsang, Erik Pema
  • Longchen Rabjam (1998), The Precious Treasury of the Way of Abiding, translated by Richard Barron, Padma Publishing
  • Petit, John Whitney (1999), Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzochen, the Great Perfection, Boston: Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-157-2
  • Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (2001), Het wonder van onze oorspronkelijke geest. Dzokchen in de bontraditie van Tibet (Dutch translation of "Wonders of the Natural Mind"), Elmar BV
  • Rossi, Donatella (1999), The Philosophical View of the Great Perfection in the Tibetan Bon Religion, Snow Lion, ISBN 1-55939-129-4
  • Schaik, Sam (2004), Approaching the Great Perfection: Simultaneous and Gradual Methods of Dzogchen Practice in the Longchen Nyingtig (PDF), Wisdom Publications Inc., archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-07-14, retrieved 2014-06-15


Further reading[edit]

  • Lipman, Kennard (c. 1984). "How Samsara is Fabricated from the Ground of Being." Translated from Klong-chen rab-'byams-pa's "Yid-bzhin rin-po-che'i mdzod". "Crystal Mirror V". Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, pp. 336–356 revised edition 1991; First published 1977
  • Hubbard, Jamie (1994, 2008). Original Purity and the Arising of Delusion. Smith College. Source: [1] (accessed: Friday April 9, 2010)