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Ground (Tib. གཞི་, shyi, Wyl. gzhi) — all the Buddhist teachings are explained in terms of Ground, Path, and Fruition.

In the General Buddhist Teachings

In the general Buddhist teachings, the Ground is also referred to as the buddha nature. The buddha nature speaks of our potential for enlightenment, the seed of buddha or seed of enlightenment that all of us have within us.

At the moment, the Ground of our true nature is obscured and we are on the path of delusion, but we can cut through that delusion, to return to our original nature.

The way we do that is by taking the Path of View, Meditation and Action. Through View, Meditation and Action, we recognize the Ground of our true nature and make it into our reality.

When the Ground is fully realized, that is the Fruition: we attain complete liberation and become a buddha.

In Dzogchen

The Ground of Dzogchen is the fundamental, primordial state, our absolute nature, which is already perfect and always present. It is described as being endowed with three qualities: its essence, its nature and its compassionate energy. Although conceptually we make distinctions between them, these three qualities of the ground of being are united.

Seven Assertions

The Dzogchen texts, including Longchen Rabjam's Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle and Treasury of Word and Meaning, sometimes mention seven assertions with regard to the Ground (gzhi'i 'dod lugs bdun).

  1. The ground is spontaneously present (Tib. ལྷུན་གྲུབ་གཞི་གཞི་རུ་འདོད་པ་, Wyl. lhun grub gzhi ru 'dod pa)
  2. The ground is indeterminate or uncertain (Tib. མ་ངེས་པ་གཞི་རུ་འདོད་པ་, ma nges pa gzhi ru 'dod pa)
  3. The ground is fixed or determined in a particular way (Tib. ངེས་པ་དོན་གྱི་གཞི་རུ་འདོད་པ་, nges pa don gyi gzhi ru 'dod pa)
  4. The ground is capable of transforming into anything at all (Tib. ཅིར་ཡང་བསྒྱུར་བཏུབ་པ་གཞིར་འདོད་པ་, cir yang bsgyur btub pa gzhir 'dod pa)
  5. The ground can be defined in any possible way (Tib. ཅིར་ཡང་ཁས་བླང་དུ་བཏུབ་པ་གཞིར་འདོད་པ་, cir yang khas blang du btub pa gzhir 'dod pa)
  6. The ground is manifold (Tib. སྣ་ཚོགས་གཞི་རུ་འདོད་པ་, Wyl. sna tshogs gzhi ru 'dod pa)
  7. The ground is primordial purity (Tib. ཀ་དག་གཞི་རུ་འདོད་པ་, Wyl. ka dag gzhi ru 'dod pa)

In Treasury of Words and Meaning, Longchenpa says that each of the first six views entails logical flaws, while the seventh is correct. Yet in the Treasury of Supreme Vehicle, he explains that the seventh view is also incomplete, and that the correct interpretation of the Ground is that it combines both primordial purity and spontaneous presence, or, put in another way, it is the union of the essence, nature and compassion. Jamgön Kongtrul, in his Treasury of Knowledge, follows the former approach, stating that the seventh interpretation is correct.[1]


  1. See Jamgön Kongtrul 2003, pp.204-7

Further Reading

  • A Treasury of Dharma, aka The Mengak Study Pack (Lodève: The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2005), pages 64-83.
  • Jamgön Kongtrul, The Treasury of Knowledge, Book One: Myriad Worlds, translated by the Kalu Rinpoche translation Group (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2003)