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Upadeśa (Tib. མན་ངག་, man ngag; C. youpotishe), or instructions, are one of the twelve categories of teachings, according to the Sanskrit tradition.

According to Buswell, in the Mahayana shastras, an upadeśa text has the sense of conveying a special or hidden meaning of a sutra that may not be apparent to the student.[1]

In the Vajrayana, the term upadeśa indicates the most essential and practical instructions on a given topic of the teachings, often transmitted orally. Within the Vajrayana, there is a common division of texts into three categories:[2]

  • tantras
  • agamas (commentaries on the tantras)
  • upadeśa (pith instructions)

Alternative translations for this term

  • Instructions
  • Pith instructions
  • Crucial instructions
  • Key instructions
  • Quintessential instructions


  1. Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Robert E. Buswell Jr., Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton: 2014), s.v. Upadeśa
  2. RW icon height 18px.png Pith instructions