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Sanskrit Noun



Basic Meaning

Disposition, lineage, or class; an individual's gotra determines the type of enlightenment one is destined to attain.

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Term Variations
Key Term gotra
Topic Variation gotra
Tibetan རིགས་
Wylie Tibetan Transliteration rigs
Devanagari Sanskrit गोत्र
Romanized Sanskrit gotra
Chinese 鍾姓, 種性
Chinese Pinyin zhōng xìng
Buddha-nature Site Standard English potential
Karl Brunnhölzl's English Term disposition
Richard Barron's English Term spiritual affinity, spiritual potential
Jeffrey Hopkin's English Term type, kind, lineage
Ives Waldo's English Term nationality, bloodline, variety, status
Term Information
Source Language Sanskrit
Basic Meaning Disposition, lineage, or class; an individual's gotra determines the type of enlightenment one is destined to attain.
Related Terms dhātu, buddhadhātu
Term Type Noun
Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism See page 325: In Sanskrit, “family” or “lineage,” used in a figurative sense. The vinaya explains that those in a noble family or line are those monks who are content with their robes, with whatever they receive in their begging bowls, and with low-quality bedding, and who take pleasure in forsaking the unwholesome (akuśala) and cultivating the wholesome (kuśala). In the Pāli abhidhamma, the moment when one’s concentration or insight moves from one “family” to another is called “change of lineage” (gotrabhū). In Mahāyāna literature (especially that associated with the Yogācāra), gotra refers to a destiny, almost in the sense of a spiritual disposition, that prompts one to follow a particular path to enlightenment. There is typically a list of five such spiritual destinies (pańcagotra) found in Yogācāra literature: (1) the tathāgata lineage, for those destined to become buddhas; (2) the pratyekabuddha lineage, for those destined to become arhats via the pratyekabuddhayāna; (3) the Śrāvaka lineage, for those who will become arhats via the śrāvakayāna; (4) those of indefinite (aniyata) lineage, who may change from any of three vehicles to another; and (5) those without lineage (agotra), who are ineligible for liberation or who have lost the prospect of becoming enlightened by being “incorrigibles” (icchantika). Another division of lineage is into Prakṛtisthagotra (naturally present) and samudānitagotra (developed). According to the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra, the former refers to one’s innate potential for spiritual achievement; the latter refers to the specific individual habits one can develop that will help speed the mastery of that potential. See also Faxiang zong; Śrāvakabhūmi.
Synonyms kula; vaṃśa
Grammatical / Etymological Analysis Following Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra III.4cd and its Bhāṣya, the hermeneutical etymology of gotra is often explained as meaning guṇottāraṇa, with the syllable go in gotra standing for guṇa ("qualities") and the syllable tra representing uttāraṇa ("delivering," "setting free"). Thus, the got is the disposition from which qualities arise and increase or which sets them free... Gotra can also mean "what protects qualities" (guṇatraya)." - Karl Brunnhölzl, When the Clouds Part, pp. 95-96.

According to John W. Pettit, the term comes from the combination of go (cow) and tra (protection), which was a reference to livestock enclosures. In ancient India this was representative of family or clan wealth and thus the term came to represent hereditary pedigree.

-Public talk at Rangjung Yeshe Institute, "Basics of Buddha-Nature: Mipham’s Roaring Lions Public." March 27, 2019.