Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Rigpa Mean?

Rigpa is a Tibetan word that roughly means “awareness” or “intelligence.” In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of Dzogchen or Atiyoga — which aims to achieve a natural, primordial state — the word has a deeper meaning. It denotes the awareness or knowledge of the innermost nature of the mind. Rigpa, therefore, is the knowledge that comes from recognizing one’s own nature and is nearly synonymous with the Hindu term, vidya.

Rigpa/vidya is a higher awareness that leads to enlightenment, which is the goal of Buddhism and its sister tradition, yoga.


Yogapedia Explains Rigpa

The purpose of the higher awareness of rigpa is to go beyond such concepts as the physical world, time and space in order to reach unity with the universe. In Buddhism, rigpa represents the highest form of meditation — a constant mindfulness of the inner Self.

When a practitioner reaches the state of rigpa, they gain clarity that is devoid of ignorance about the nature of the mind. To reach such enlightenment, the emotional and cognitive veils that prevent rigpa must be removed — this includes emotions, attitudes and wrong (ego-driven) knowledge. Practicing yoga and meditation can help shatter these obstacles.

In Dzogchen, the goal is to distinguish rigpa from sems (the mind distorted by thoughts). Rigpa, therefore, is pure awareness that is free from such distortions of the mind. The opposite of rigpa is mariga (unknowing).

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