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Sāmānyalakṣaṇa (T. spyi mtshan སྤྱི་མཚན་; C. gongxian), or "generally characterized object" is defined as "the conceptual superimposition of that which appears as a universal."[1][2]

The generally characterized thing is the object (viṣaya) of conceptual perception. It is the appearance in the mind of a mere, general image of the object, which involves the process of "other-exclusion." The generally characterized object, a.k.a. object universal, is always subject to being associated with the sound of its name, which only functions if one is familiar with both the object and its name. Generally characterized objects exist merely by imputation.[3]

Tsepak Rigdzin states that generally characterized phenomena are:

Phenomena that are ultimately unable to perform a function, e.g. space.[4]

Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics states:

general characteristics - characteristics shared by things of the same kind or belonging to the same category.[5]

In Buddhist logic and epistemology, this term is contrasted with a "specifically characterized object" (svalakṣaṇa).

Alternative translations

  • Generally characterized phenomena[6]
  • generally characterized object
  • generally characterized thing
  • object universal
  • general characteristic, general quality, shared mark (Buswell)
  • general notion
  • universal (Dunne)
  • universals


  1. ཐུན་མོང་བར་སྣང་བའི་སྒྲོ་བཏགས་
  2. RW icon height 18px.png Generally characterized, Rigpa Shedra Wiki
  3. Khenjuk notes, TSTD Gtk week 6
  4. Internet-icon.svg spyi mtshan, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
  5. Thupten Jinpa 2020, s.v. Glossary, "general characteristics".
  6. Dunne has objected to the use of the word 'phenomenon' here. See Dunne (2004), p. 83, n. 46


Further reading

  • John D. Dunne, Foundations of Dharmakirti's Philosophy, Wisdom Publications, 2004
  • RW icon height 18px.png Generally characterized, Rigpa Shedra Wiki