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Semdé (T. sems sde སེམས་སྡེ), translated as "mind class," "mind series", etc., 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 Mengakdé (instruction class).

Tulku Thondup states:

Semdé, the cycle on mind, teaches that all appearances are mind, that mind is emptiness, emptiness is intrinsic awareness, and emptiness and intrinsic awareness are in union.
For the teaching that the appearances are mind, Semdé classifies the appearances as three characteristics of mind: power (rtsal), play (rol ba), and attributes (rgyan). The power of mind is the aspect of mere seeing or awareness of things, which for ordinary people has become the basis of delusion into samsara. The play of the mind is the arising of the defiled mind consciousness and other consciousnesses. The attributes are the display of phenomenal existence, mountains, houses, bodies, and so on. And attributes have arisen from who are due to the power of mind.
Having realize that phenomenal existence are the mere play of one's own mind, Semdé meditators have attained the freedom from what they have to get free from, but they are not yet free from grasping the means of that freedom, the awareness and clarity of mind.
The awareness presented in Semdé is an aspect of clarity and awareness of mind, but it is not the ultimate spontaneously perfected profound intrinsic awareness of Mengakdé.[1]

John Pettit states:

The teaching of the mental class (sems sde) is that all phenomena arise as the creativity (rtsal) of mind-as-such (sems nyid), or the nature of mind. Mind-as-such here should not be confused with the ultimately existent mind of Mentalism. Tulku Thondup says that the mental class "teaches that all the appearances are mind, that mind is emptiness, emptiness is intrinsic awareness, and emptiness and intrinsic awareness are in union." Though it reveals the innate liberation of the mind, the limitation of the mental class is that it does not eliminate all conceptual reference to the means of freedom-the awareness or clarity aspect of mind.[2]


The texts of the mind class (semdé), consist of: five early translations, thirteen later translations and three major tantras.[3]

‘Five Earlier Translations’, translated by Vairotsana:[3]

  • Cuckoo of Awareness (rig pa'i khu byug)
  • Great Potency (rTsal chen sprugs pa)
  • The Great Soaring Garuḍa (Khyung chen lding ba)
  • Meditation on the Enlightened Mind (Byang chub sems bsgom pa)
  • The Never Declining Banner of the Great Sky (Mi nub rgyal mtshan)

‘Thirteen Later Translations', translated by Yudra Nyingpo:[3]

  • The Supreme Lord (rJe btsan dam pa)
  • The Wish-fulfilling Gem (Yid bzhin nor bu)
  • The Victorious Emergence of the Peak (rTse mo byung rgyal)
  • The Inlaid Jewels of Bliss (bDe ba 'phra bkod)
  • The King of the Sky (Nam mkha' rgyal po)
  • The Wheel of Life (Srog gi 'khor lo)
  • The Epitome (sPyi ‘chings)
  • The Infinity of Bliss (bDe 'byams)
  • The Quintessential King (Yang tig rgyal po)
  • The Marvelous (rMad du byung ba)
  • The Six Spheres (Thig le drug pa)
  • The Accomplishment of Meditation (bsGom don grub pa)
  • The Compendium (Kun 'dus)
  • The Universally Definitive Perfection (rDzogs pa spyi spyod)
  • The Small Hidden Grain (sBas pa’i rgum chung)

Later tantras:[3][4]

Alternate translations for semdé

The Tibetan term semde (sems sde) is translated as:

  • mind class
  • mental class (John Pettit)
  • cycle on mind (Tulku Thondup)
  • mind series
  • mind division
  • etc.


  1. Tulku Thondup 1996, pp. 30-31.
  2. Pettit 1999, p. 79.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 RW icon height 18px.png Mind category, Rigpa Shedra Wiki
  4. It is not clear what the third major tantra is.


  • Pettit, John Whitney (1999), Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, Wisdom Publications 
  • Tulku Thondup (1996), Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambala 

Further reading

  • Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Buswell, Robert E.; Lopez, Donald S. (2014), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University 
  • Chogyal Namkhai Norbu (2000), "Appendix One-B: Key to the Groups of Three in the Dzogchen Teachings", The Crystal and the Way of Light: Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen, Snow Lion 
  • "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
  • 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

External links