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vidyā (P vijjā; T. rig pa/rig ma རིག་པ་/རིག་མ་; C. ming 明) is a Sanskrit term that has multiple connotations in Buddhist literature.

  1. in the sutra literature of Mainstream Buddhist schools, vidyā is commonly translated as "knowledge," and can refer to:[1]
    1. conventional knowledge gained through analysis and investigation, or
    2. insight into the nature of reality gained through meditation practice. For example, trividyā ("three knowledges").
  2. in commentaries of the Sanskrit and Pali traditions, vidyā can carry the following connotations:
    1. "investigation," "observation," and "correct theories"[1]
    2. "science," "field of knowledge," "branch of knowledge."[2] For example, pañcavidyā (the "five sciences").
  3. in tantric literature, vidyā can refer to:[1]
    1. esoteric knowlege
    2. a type of mantra or dhāraṇī and the deity it invokes, thereby reflecting their inseparability. A vidyā is typically applied to female deities, and is often, but not exclusively, used for worldly goals in esoteric ritual. In worldly contexts a vidyā is similar to a “spell.”[2]
    3. sexual consort
  4. in the Dzogchen tradition, it conveys the meaning of pure awareness. In this sense, "it denotes the fundamental innate mind in its natural state of spontaneity and purity, beyond alternating states of motion and rest and the subject-object dichotomy."[2] See rigpa.


The word vidya is derived from the Sanskrit root vid, which means "to know, to perceive, to see, to understand".[3] The vid*-related terms appear extensively in the Rigveda and other Vedas.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Robert E. Buswell Jr., Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton: 2014), s.v. vidyā
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Internet-icon.svg རིག་པ་, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
  3. 3.0 3.1 Monier Monier-Williams (1872). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 918.