gotra (P. gotta; T. rigs རིགས་; C. zhongxing 種姓/種性) is translated as "family," "lineage," "disposition," etc. The term is often used figuratively, to describe many different types of "families," or "groups" that are in some way related or connected.
The Tsadra Buddha-nature glossary states:
- [Gotra means] disposition, lineage, or class; an individual's gotra determines the type of enlightenment one is destined to attain.
- Gotra is used in Buddhist literature in a wide variety of ways. In Yogācāra it is used in the sense of family, lineage, or type to classify beings according to their innate capacity for progress on the path to enlightenment.
- In the Vinaya, monks are said to belong to a "noble family," because they give up unwholesome deeds and cultivate virtue
- In the Pali Abhidharma, the moment at which one attains a higher state of awareness is called a "change of lineage" (gotra-bhū)
- In the Mahayana texts (especially Yogacara texts), "gotra refers to a destiny, almost in the sense of a spiritual disposition, that prompts one to follow a particular path to enlightenment." (See below for more info.)
The Rangjung Yeshe Dharma Dictionary provides the following definitions for the Tibetan term "rigs":
- kinds, varieties, types, aspects.
- caste, bloodline, lineage, extraction, birth, descent, lineage, family, noble, potential, class, gene [spiritual genes], type, category, status.
- specific spiritual family, Buddha family.
- Buddha nature.
- nature. Syn སྙིང་པོ་
- certain [in end of sentence. it is certain!]
- will understand.
- causal ground.
- possibility, capability, potential.
- realm. Syn khams.
Five types of "gotra" (dispositions) in Yogacara
- śrāvakagotram (ཉན་ཐོས་ཀྱི་རིགས་), those destined to become arhats via the sravakayana
- pratyekabuddhagotram (རང་སངས་རྒྱས་ཀྱི་རིགས་), destined to become arhats via the pratyekabuddhayana
- tathāgatagotram (དེ་བཞིན་གཤེགས་པའི་རིགས་), destined to become buddhas via the bodhisattvayana
- aniyatagotram (མ་ངེས་པའི་རིགས་), those of indefinite lineage, who might change to another lineage
- agotram (རིགས་མེད་པ་), those without lineage, who will not become enlightened