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Vidya (Skt. vidyā) can mean "knowledge", "field of knowledge" or "clarity".


The word vidya is derived from the Sanskrit root vid, which means "to know, to perceive, to see, to understand".[1] The vid*-related terms appear extensively in the Rigveda and other Vedas.[1]


In Mahayana texts, the female divinities are designated grammatically feminine terms Dhārāni and Vidyā. Dharani refers to mantras, the sounds that carry the essence or energy of a deity, which enable contact with the goddess on her plane of reality because the mantras invoke all deities. Vidyā is also synonymous with mantra and refers to the mantric invocation of female deities.[2]

Tibetan Buddhism

In Tibetan Buddhism, while the term vidya (Skt. vidyā; Tib. རིག་པ་, rigpa, Wyl. rig pa) is frequently translated as ‘awareness,’ caution is necessary. The Tibetan word rigpa can indeed mean ‘awareness,’ but the equivalent Sanskrit word vidya cannot. The reason is that the Sanskrit word vidya has a different range of meanings from its Tibetan counterpart rigpa. The Sanskrit word vidya can mean either of four things:

  1. knowledge, field of knowledge or science: For example, as in the title of the famous Vajrakilaya tantra, entitled Vidyottama Tantra (Wyl. rig pa mchog gi rgyud), The Supreme Knowledge Tantra.
  2. spiritual consort
  3. vidya mantra (Skt. vidyā mantra; Wyl. rig sngags): a vidya mantra is a female deity mantra that through recitation gives the reciter the ability to change or control phenomena and circumstances. One example is the Senge Dongma mantra.
  4. other meanings: when vidya is found in compounds, such as vidyadhara, it may take on other meanings.

Thus, depending on the context, the Tibetan word rigpa may not mean awareness, but rather carries one of meanings of its Sanskrit counterpart vidya.

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


  1. 1.0 1.1 Monier Monier-Williams (1872). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. p. 918. 
  2. Miranda Eberie Shaw. Buddhist Goddesses of India. Princeton University Press.