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Vikalpa (P. vikappa T. rnam par rtog pa རྣམ་པར་རྟོག་པ་; C. fenbie) has the meaning conceptualization, conceptual thinking, conceptual thought, discrimination, etc. According to Buswell, vikalpa refers to conceptual activities of the mental consciousness (manovijnana).[1] Buswell also states:

In the Yogacara school, vikalpa is described specfically as the "discriminative conception of apprehended and apprehender"...[1]

The Rangjung Yeshe Wiki also describes vikalpa as "forming concepts of subject and object."[2]

The Yogacara school makes a distinction between vikalpa (conceptual thought) and nirvikalpa (non-conceptual thought).

Within the Bodhisattvabhumi

Vikalpa is discussed in the "Tattvārtha" chapter of the Bodhisattvabhūmi. In her commentary on this chapter, contemporary scholar Jan Willis writes:

Here Asanga discusses the faults of "discursive," undisciplined thought (vikalpa) and the means of coming to thoroughly comprehend its workings. Because discursive thought and conceptualization of all kinds cloud our view of ultimate reality, Asanga here takes pains to delineate and analyze such thought.[3]

Eight types of vikalpa

The Bodhisattvabhūmi identifies eight types of vikalpa:[4]

  1. vikalpa concerning essential nature
  2. vikalpa concerning particularity
  3. vikalpa concerning grasping whole shapes
  4. vikalpa concerning "I"
  5. vikalpa concerning "mine"
  6. vikalpa concerning the agreeable
  7. vikalpa concerning the disagreeable
  8. vikalpa which is contrary to both the agreeable and the disagreeable

Alternate translations

Alternate translations for this term are:

  • conceptual thought (RY)
  • discursive thought (Berzin, Jim Valby, et al)
  • conceptual process
  • [false] discrimination (Buswell)
  • discriminating activities of the mind

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Robert E. Buswell Jr., Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton: 2014), s.v. vikalpa
  2. Rangjung a-circle30px.jpg rnam_par_rtog_pa, Rangjung Yeshe Wiki
  3. Janice Dean Willis, On Knowing Reality, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers (2002), p. 40
  4. Janice Dean Willis, On Knowing Reality, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers (2002), p. 168-169

Further reading

This article is developed by our editors based on the sources cited. EOB name icon 2022.png