kun gzhi

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Glossarykun gzhi

Sanskrit Noun

kun gzhi

universal ground
आलय
ཀུན་གཞི་

Basic Meaning

Although it is commonly used as an abbreviation of ālayavijñāna (kun gzhi'i rnam shes), in later Tibetan traditions, particularly that of the Kagyu and the Nyingma, it came to denote an ultimate or pure basis of mind, as opposed to the ordinary, deluded consciousness represented by the ālayavijñāna. Alternatively, in the Jonang tradition, this pure version is referred to as ālaya-wisdom (kun gzhi'i ye shes).

Has the Sense of

This term entered the Tibetan lexicon as a translation of ālaya, and thus it is often rendered back to its Sanskrit antecedent in modern scholarship and translations. However, as a Tibetan term it is more commonly read literally as the compound all-ground, or ground of everything. As such it is often used to describe a common locus, or substrate, out of which both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa emerge.

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Term Variations
Key Term kun gzhi
Topic Variation universal ground
Tibetan ཀུན་གཞི་  ( kunzhi)
Wylie Tibetan Transliteration kun gzhi  ( kunzhi)
Devanagari Sanskrit आलय
Romanized Sanskrit ālaya
Buddha-nature Site Standard English universal ground
Richard Barron's English Term universal ground
Jeffrey Hopkin's English Term basis-of-all
Dan Martin's English Term all basis
Gyurme Dorje's English Term substratum, ground-of-all
Ives Waldo's English Term all-ground
Term Information
Usage Example In his Entering the Way of the Great Vehicle, Rongzompa states,

ཐེག་པ་གོང་མའི་ཚུལ་ལས་ནི།་ཀུན་གཞིའི་མཚན་ཉིད་གདོད་མ་ནས་བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་ཞེས་བྱ་བལ་ཉོན་མོངས་པ་དང་གནས་ངན་ལེན་གྱི་བག་ཆགས་ནི་གློ་བུར་གྱི་དྲི་མ་སྟེ་གསེར་གཡས་གཡོགས་པའམི་ནོར་བུ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་འདམ་དུ་སྦུབས་པ་བཞིན་ཡོན་ཏན་ཅུང་ཟད་མི་སྣང་བར་ཟད་དེལ་རང་བཞིན་ཉམས་པར་བྱས་པ་མེད་དོ།

"In the higher vehicles, the characteristic of the ālaya [kun gzhi] is that it is the primordial awakened mind [bodhicitta]. The afflictions and the imprints that lead to birth in the lower realms are adventitious obscurations, like oxide covering gold, or dirt covering a precious jewel. Although the buddha qualities are temporarily hidden, their nature is not defiled."

-Translated in Sam van Schaik. Approaching the Great Perfection: Simultaneous and Gradual Approaches to Dzogchen Practice in Jigme Lingpa's Longchen Nyingtig. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004: p. 63.


In his Treasury of Words and Meanings, Longchenpa defines four types of kun gzhi: the primordial universal ground (ye don gyi kun gzhi), the linking universal ground (sbyor ba don gyi kun gzhi), the universal ground of varied karmic propensities (bags sna tshogs pa'i kun gzhi), and the universal ground of the karmic propensities(-derived) body (bag chags lus kyi kun gzhi).

-David F. Germano and William S. Waldron. "A Comparison of Ālaya-Vijñāna in Yogācāra and Dzogchen." In Buddhist Thought and Applied Psychological Research: Transcending Boundaries. New York: Routledge, 2006: p. 53.
Source Language Sanskrit
Basic Meaning Although it is commonly used as an abbreviation of ālayavijñāna (kun gzhi'i rnam shes), in later Tibetan traditions, particularly that of the Kagyu and the Nyingma, it came to denote an ultimate or pure basis of mind, as opposed to the ordinary, deluded consciousness represented by the ālayavijñāna. Alternatively, in the Jonang tradition, this pure version is referred to as ālaya-wisdom (kun gzhi'i ye shes).
Has the Sense of This term entered the Tibetan lexicon as a translation of ālaya, and thus it is often rendered back to its Sanskrit antecedent in modern scholarship and translations. However, as a Tibetan term it is more commonly read literally as the compound all-ground, or ground of everything. As such it is often used to describe a common locus, or substrate, out of which both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa emerge.
Related Terms gzhi
Term Type Noun
Definitions