Cognitive obscurations

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Cognitive obscurations (Skt. jñeyāvaraṇa; Tib. ཤེས་བྱའི་སྒྲིབ་པ་, ཤེས་སྒྲིབ་, shé drip, Wyl. shes sgrib) are defined according to their essence, cause and function.

In essence, they are thoughts that involve the three conceptual ‘spheres’ of subject, object and action. The Gyü Lama says:

"Thoughts that involve the three spheres,
These are the cognitive obscurations."

Their cause is grasping at phenomena as truly existent, or, in other words, the “self of phenomena”.

Their function is to prevent complete enlightenment.

The Elimination of the Cognitive Obscurations

According to Mipham Rinpoche, the cognitive obscurations are overcome in their imputation (kun btags) aspect at the path of seeing and in their innate (lhan skyes) aspect on the path of meditation. Complete enlightenment is reached when the most subtle cognitive obscurations—which are habitual tendencies—are overcome by means of what is called the “vajra-like samadhi,” at the end of the tenth bhumi.

Compound Analysis (vigraha) and Alternative Translations

The Sanskrit term jñeyāvaraṇa is usually analysed as a saptamī tatpuruṣa (a nominal compound in which the first member is in the locative case), which roughly amounts to meaning 'obscurations (āvaraṇa) with respect to objects of knowledge (jñeyeṣu)'. By contrast, the analysis typically given for emotional obscurations (kleśāvaraṇa) is that of a karmadhāraya (a nominal compound for which the two members are analysed in grammatical apposition). The latter amounts to meaning 'that which is both a mental affliction (kleśa) and an obscuration (āvaraṇa).

  • Cognitive veils
  • Intellectual obscurations
  • Obscurations of the knowable (Jeffrey Hopkins)
  • Knowables obscurations
  • Obscurations of objects of knowledge
  • Obscuration concerning the knowable
  • Obscuration with regard to possible objects of knowledge (Wiesiek)
  • Obscurations of objects
  • Obscurations of knowable objects

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