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Lakṣaṇa (Sanskrit; P. lakkhaṇa T. mtshan nyid) refers to either the defining characteristics or main characterics of something. The term is used in a variety of contexts in Buddhist philosophy. It is commonly translated as "mark", "sign", "characteristics", etc.[1]

As defining characteristics or definition

When used in the sense of a definition or defining characteristics within Buddhist philosophy, it is said that a correct and useful definition must avoid the three faults of being too narrow, too broad or impossible.

In Pramana

In Pramana, definition (lakṣaṇa) is usually discussed in terms of the triad of definition (lakṣaṇa), name (lakṣya; mtshon bya) and basis of definition (mtshan gzhi).[2]

For example, in the case of a vase:[2]

  • the definition is something like "narrow-necked, bulbous object capable of holding water"
  • the name (or definiendum) is "vase"
  • and the basis of definition (or illustration) is the particular instance, such as the green vase on your table.


  1. Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Robert E. Buswell Jr., Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton: 2014), s.v. lakṣaṇa
  2. 2.0 2.1 RW icon height 18px.png Definition
This article includes content from Definition on Rigpawiki (view authors). Licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0 RW icon height 18px.png