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Part of the Dzogchen text The cuckoo of awareness, from Dunhuang.

Semdé (Tibetan: སེམས་སྡེWylie: sems sde; Sanskrit: cittavarga) translated as "mind division", "mind class" or "mind series", is one of three divisions of the Dzogchen teachings according to the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. The other two divisions are Longdé (space class) and Menngagde (instruction class).

Semdé emphasizes the clarity (gsal-ba) or the innate awareness (rig-pa) aspect of the Natural State.


These three divisions were introduced by the Buddhist scholar Manjushrimitra. As Great Perfection texts, the texts of all three divisions are concerned with the basic primordial state, the nature of mind-itself (which is contrasted with normal conscious mind). They are related to the 'Three statements' of Prahevajra.

It is important to note that the three series do not represent different schools of Dzogchen practice as much as different approaches to the same goal, that being the basic, natural, and primordial state. As is common throughout much Buddhist literature, Tibetan Buddhism in particular, gradations in the faculties of practitioners are also ascribed to the three divisions, they being seen as appropriate for practitioners of low, middling, and high faculties, respectively.

Germano (2005: p.12) states that:

The earliest revelations of the Great Perfection are those said to have been disseminated in Tibet in the latter half of the eighth century, and which retroactively were classified as the Mind Series to distinguish them from later developments. They begin with a collection of quite short texts known as The Eighteen Texts of the Mind Series (Sems sde bco brgyad), and then subsequently proliferate into a large family of texts spawned by the original collection’s expansion, modification, and so forth, culminating in a series of texts centered on The All-Creating King (Kun byed rgyal po). Most of the resultant sub-divisions of the Mind Series rubric have names based upon geographical regions, clans, or individual founders. Padmasambhava (eighth century) does not figure prominently – if at all – in these early Great Perfection traditions; rather, Śrīsiṁha (eighth century), Dga’ rab rdo rje (seventh century?), and Vimalamitra (eighth-ninth century) are the main Indian figures cited as involved in their authorship, redaction, transmission, and translation.[1] (NB: original text not meta-enhanced.)

Distinguishing Features of the Mind Division

Texts of the Mind Division emphasize that the totality of phenomena that present themselves to us are nothing more than apparitions or projections of the mind. As the Mind Division is related to the first statement of Prahevajra, Semde texts emphasize the direct introduction to the natural state of mind, including explanations of this state and methods for recognizing it.

Texts of the Mind Division

The mind class (semde) of Dzogchen was also said to comprise eighteen tantras, although the formulation eventually came to include slightly more. Tantras belonging to the Mind Division include:

  1. Cuckoo of Presence (Tibetan: རིག་པའི་ཁུ་བྱུགWylie: rig pa'i khu byug)
  2. Great Potency (Tibetan: རྩལ་ཆེན་སྤྲུག་པWylie: rtsal chen sprug pa)
  3. Great Garuda in Flight (Tibetan: ཁྱུང་ཆེན་ལྡིང་བWylie: khyung chen lding ba)
  4. Refining Gold from Ore (Tibetan: རྡོ་ལ་གསེར་ཞུནWylie: rdo la gser zhun)
  5. Great Space Never Waning Banner Scripture (Tibetan: མི་ནུབ་རྒྱལ་མཚན་ནམ་མཁའ་ ནམ་མཁའ་ཆེ་Wylie: mi nub rgyal mtshan nam mkha' che)
  6. Spontaneous Summit Scripture (Tibetan: རྩེ་མོ་བྱུང་རྒྱལWylie: rtse mo byung rgyal)
  7. King of Space (Tibetan: རྣམ་ མཁའི་རྒྱལ་ རྒྱལ་པོWylie: rnam mkha'i rgyal po)
  8. Jewel-Encrusted Bliss Ornament (Tibetan: བདེ་བ་འཕྲུལ་བཀོདWylie: bde ba 'phrul bkod)
  9. All-Encompassing Perfection (Tibetan: རྫོགས་པ་སྤྱི་ཆིངསWylie: rdzogs pa spyi chings)
  10. Essence of Bodhicitta (Tibetan: བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་ཏིགWylie: byang chub sems tig)
  11. Infinite Bliss (Tibetan: བདེ་བ་རབ་འབྱམསWylie: bde ba rab 'byams)
  12. Wheel of Life (Tibetan: སྲོག་གི་འཁོར་ལWylie: srog gi 'khor lo)
  13. Six Spheres (Wylie: thig le drug pa)
  14. All-Penetrating Perfection (Tibetan: རྫོགས་པ་སྤྱི་སྤྱོདWylie: rdzogs pa spyi spyod)
  15. Wish-Fulfilling Jewel (Tibetan: ཡིད་བཞིན་ནོར་བུWylie: yid bzhin nor bu)
  16. All-Unifying Pure Presence (Tibetan: ཀུན་ཏུ་རིག་པWylie: kun tu rig pa)
  17. Supreme Lord (Tibetan: རྗེ་བཙན་དམ་པ་Wylie: rje btsan dam pa)
  18. The Realization of the True Meaning of Meditation (Tibetan: སྒོམ་པ་དོན་གྲུབWylie: sgom pa don grub)
  19. Kulayarāja Tantra ()
  20. The Marvelous Primordial State (Tibetan: བྱང་ཆུབ་ཀྱི་སེམས་རྨད་དུ་བྱུང་བWylie: byang chub kyi sems rmad du byung ba)
  21. The Ten Concluding Teachings

Another listing drawn from The Lotus Born [2] is:

  1. All-embodying Jewel Scripture (Wylie: rin chen kun 'dus kyi lung)
  2. All-encompassing Bliss Scripture (Wylie: bde ba rab 'byams kyi lung)
  3. Awareness Cuckoo Scripture (Wylie: rig pa khu byug gi lung)
  4. Epitome of Teachings Scripture (Wylie: bka' lung gi spyi chings)
  5. Great Garuda View Scripture (Wylie: lta ba khyung chen gyi lung)
  6. Great Space King Scripture (Wylie: nam mkha' che rgyal po'i lung)
  7. Great Space Never Waning Banner Scripture (Wylie: mi nub rgyal mtshan nam mkha' che'i lung)
  8. Great Strength of Awareness Scripture (Wylie: rig pa rtsal chen gyi lung)
  9. Jewel Studded Bliss Scripture (Wylie: bde ba phra bkod kyi lung)
  10. Meditation Accomplishment Scripture (Wylie: bsgom don grub pa'i lung)
  11. Nonarising Tilaka Scripture (Wylie: skye med ti la ka'i lung)
  12. Pure Gold on Stone Scripture (Wylie: rdo la gser zhun gyi lung)
  13. Spontaneous Summit Scripture (Wylie: rtse mo byung rgyal gyi lung)
  14. Supreme King Scripture (Wylie: rje btsan dam pa'i lung)
  15. Variegated Great Treasury Scripture (Wylie: sna tshogs gter chen gyi lung)
  16. Wheel of Life Scripture (Wylie: srog gi 'khor lo'i lung)
  17. Wishfulfilling Jewel Scripture (Wylie: yi bzhin nor bu'i lung)
  18. Wonderful Wisdom Scripture (Wylie: ye shes rmad du byung ba'i lung)

Of these, the first five are the "Five Earlier Translated Tantras", translated by Vairotsana. The next thirteen were translated primarily by Vimalamitra. Of the remaining three, the Kunjed Gyalpo is taken to be the primary or root tantra of the Mind Series.

Four Yogas of Semde

One feature of the Semde system is four yogas or samatha[3] (Wylie: rnal ’byor), called "calm abiding," (Wylie: zhi gnas), vipassanā (Wylie: lhag mthong), "unbounded wholeness" (Sanskrit: advaya,[4]), and "spontaneous presence" (Sanskrit: anābhoga or nirābhoga,[5] Wylie: lhun grub). These parallel the Four Yogas of Mahamudra.


  1. Germano, David (2005). "The Funerary Transformation of the Great Perfection (Rdzogs chen) JIATS, no. 1 (October 2005), page 12". Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  2. Schmidt, Erik Hein, and Marcia Binder, ed. 1993. The Lotus-Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava. Composed by Yeshe Tsogyal, revealed by Nyang Ral Nyima Öser?, foreword' by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, clarification by Tsele Natsok Rangdröl. Translated from Tibetan by Erik Pema Kunsang. 1st edition, Shambhala Books. Reprint: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, Boudhanath. 1998. ISBN 962-7341-55-X
  3. "Dharmakirti International, Dharmakirti College". 
  4. Unbounded Wholeness by Anne C. Klein, Tenzin Wangyal. ISBN 0-19-517849-1 pg 349)
  5. Unbounded Wholeness by Anne C. Klein, Tenzin Wangyal. ISBN 0-19-517849-1 pg 357, 359


  • "The Marvelous Primordial State: A Fundamental Scripture of Dzogchen Semde, The Mejung Tantra", Elio Guarisco, Adriano Clemente, Jim Valby and Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, Shang Shung Publications, Arcidosso, Italy, 2013, ISBN 978-88-7834-129-6
  • "The Practice of Dzogchen", Tulku Thondup, Harold Talbott editors, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca NY, 1989. ISBN 1-55939-054-9
  • "The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde, Kunjed Gyalpo", Namkhai Norbu and Adriano Clemente, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca NY, 1999, ISBN 1-55939-120-0

External links

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