Ten topics of knowledge

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The ten topics of knowledge (Tib. མཁས་པར་བྱ་བའི་གནས་བཅུ་, Wyl. mkhas par bya ba'i gnas bcu) are identified in the Madhyantavibhaga, an Indian philosophical text that is widely studied in Tibetan Buddhism and East Asian Buddhism. According to the text, each of the ten topics is an antidote to one of the ten views of the self.

The ten topics are:[1]

  1. Aggregates (Tib. ཕུང་པོ་; Skt. skandha)
  2. Elements (Tib.ཁམས་; Skt. dhātu)
  3. Sense sources (Tib. སྐྱེ་མཆེད་; Skt. āyatana)
  4. Dependent origination (Tib. རྟེན་འབྲེལ་; Skt. pratītyasamutpāda)
  5. The correct and the incorrect (Tib. གནས་དང་གནས་མ་ཡིན་པ་; Skt. sthānāsthāna)
  6. The faculties (Tib. དབང་པོ་; Skt. indriya)
  7. Time (Tib. དུས་; Skt. adhvan) - all phenomena are subject to arising, abiding and ceasing
  8. The truths (Tib. བདེན་པ་; Skt. satya) - refers to the four noble truths and two truths
  9. The vehicles (Tib. ཐེག་པ་; Skt. yāna) - refers to the three vehicles of the Mahayana
  10. The conditioned and the unconditioned (Tib. འདུས་བྱས་དང་འདུས་མ་བྱས་; Skt. saṁskṛta-asaṁskṛta)

These topics are elaborated upon in the Khenjuk, a commentary by Mipham Rinpoche.

Brief descriptions

This section contains brief descriptions of the ten topics of knowledge based on the presentations in the Madhyantavibhaga.


An aggregate (skandha) refers many things coming together; it is a gathering of parts. Aggregates can be categorized in terms of their characteristics. For example: the five skandhas, nama-rupa, etc.

Understanding the aggregates is an antidote to grasping to the self as "singular".


Elements refers to the eighteen elements of the Abhidharma teachings. Each of the elements has its own nature, qualities, and capacity to apprehend objects. These elements are the cause of our apprehension of the world and its beings.

Understanding the elements is an antidote to grasping to the self as the "cause" for the world and its beings.

Sense sources

Sense sources refers to the twelve sense sources of the Abhidharma teachings. All our experiences of the world arise through the sense sources.

Understanding the sources is an antidote to grasping to the self as that which "experiences" (or encounters or consumes) the world.

Dependent origination

Dependent origination refers to the understanding that all phenomema arise in dependence upon causes and conditions. This includes outer phenomena, such as a tree, and inner phenomena, such as the five aggregates.

Understanding dependent origination is an antidote to grasping to the self as the "creator" of the universe.

Similar lists

In the Avatamsaka Sutra six topics of knowledge are mentioned, i.e. aggregates, elements, sense sources, dependent origination (known collectively as the four gates to the truth), the correct and the incorrect and the truths.

In the Sutra of Inexhaustible Intelligence there is mention of eight topics: time is mentioned instead of the correct and the incorrect, and the vehicles and the conditioned and unconditioned are also mentioned.


  1. Middle Beyond Extremes: Maitreya's Madhyantavibhaga with Commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee. Snow Lion Publications. Ithica: 2007.

Further reading

This article includes content from Ten topics of knowledge on Rigpawiki (view authors). Licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0 RW icon height 18px.png