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Tattva (T. de nyid/de kho na nyid དེ་ཉིད་/དེ་ཁོ་ན་ཉིད་; C. shixiang) is used in two senses:[1]

  • ultimate reality, free from conceptual elaboration
  • the central doctrine of a philosophical school

Contemporary scholar Jan Willis writes:

A literal rendering of tattva is "thatness" (tat = "that" and tva = "ness"), or "thusness," and refers to the true or actual state of things or affairs, i.e, their reality in themselves, apart from all adventitious elements and subjective biases. Etymologically, the term shares affinity with tathatā, which is generally translated "suchness" and which often appears as a synonym for śūnyatā, the true state of things, according to the Mahāyāna...
As a technical term, it is interesting that tattva is often used to delineate distinct and individual realities, especially in treatises associated with the yoga schools.[2]


  1. Robert E. Buswell Jr., Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton: 2014), s.v. Tattva
  2. Janice Dean Willis, On Knowing Reality, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers (2002), p. 37

Further reading