Gotra

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Key Term gotra
In Tibetan Script རིགས་
Wylie Tibetan Transliteration rigs
Devanagari Sanskrit Script गोत्र
Romanized Sanskrit gotra
Chinese Script 鍾姓,種性
Chinese Pinyin zhōng xìng
English Standard potential
Karl Brunnhölzl's English Term disposition
Richard Barron's English Term spiritual affinity
Jeffrey Hopkin's English Term type; kind; lineage
Ives Waldo's English Term nationality; bloodline; variety; status
Term Type Noun
Source Language Sanskrit
Basic Meaning Disposition, lineage, or class; an individual's gotra determines the type of enlightenment one is destined to attain.
Has the Sense of Gotra is used in Buddhist literature in a wide variety of ways. In Yogācāra it is used in the sense of family, lineage, or type to classify beings according to their innate capacity for progress on the path to enlightenment.
Related Terms buddha-dhātu;dhātu
Definitions
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.
Edgerton's Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary

Page 216: gotra, m. and nt. (in Skt. only nt., and not in these mgs.; Pali Dictt. also fail to record these mgs. except in cpd. gotrabhū, q.v.; but Pali gotta seems clearly used in mg. 1, below, in Vism. i.138.4-5, in definition of gotrabhū: tarn parittagottābhibhavanato mahaggatagottabhāvanato ca gotrabhū ti pi vuccati; note how Pali here associates the Sktized gotra-bhū with the MIndic gotta I contrast Lėvi's note on Sūtrāl. iii.1), (1) lit. family, but in special technical sense of religious group or communion: pañcagotrāh Mvy 1260, listed 1261-5 śrāvaka-yānābhisamayagotrah, pratyekabuddha-yānā°, tathāgata-yānā°, aniyatagotrah, a-gotrah; same five, with -gotram, nt., Lank 63.2-5 (paficābhisamaya-gotrāņi); for the fourth, aniyataikatara- gotram, 63.4; in the sequel Lank explains at length the first three; aniyata-, le gotra qui n'est pas difinitif, Lėvi, Sūtrāl. iii.l, note, is briefly treated in Lank 65.2 f., aniyata-gotrakah punar . . . trisv apy etesu deśyamānesu yatrānuniyate tatrānuyojyah s y ā t ; apparently this is the class of people who may be drawn to whichever of the three yānas happens to be presented. The a-gotra is not explained but evidently means people outside of any Buddhist communion; in this sense understand gotrāgotrarņ katharņ Lank 25.2, (religious) family and lack of it (dvandva cpd.). Only the first three gotras are listed AbhidhK. LaV-P. vi.175; similarly Bbh 223.5-6 contrasts śrāvaka-pratyekabuddha-gotrārņ (acc. pi.) with tathāgata-gotrān. In K P 102.9; 103.1, 8 āryāņārņ gotrarņ is described as a state in which all normal conditions and activities are at an end, and in 104.1-2 (continuation of the same) it is said, anulomam tad gotrarņ nirvāņasya. The relation of this to the three or five gotras is not quite clear. In the question, kena pravartitā gotrāh suvarņamaņimuktajāh Lank 26.3, gotra is prob. used in this same sense, but the adj., sprung from gold, gems, and pearls, is obscure in application; one is tempted to see an allusion (metaphorically) to the next mg., cf. especially suvarņagotra- vat Sūtrāl. iii.9 and suratna-gotra-vat 10, with Lėvľs note; but producing gold etc., which one would expect, seems philologically impossible; (2) mine, of gems or ores: Sūtrāl. iii.9,10, above; sarvaratnasarņbhavotpattigotrākaramūlyajňānesu Gv 451.2; dhātu-gotrāņi, mines of ores (metals), °ņi yam paktvā suvarņa-rūpya-vaidūryāņy (°vaid°) abhinivartanťe Divy 111.20* and (°ūrya-sphaįikāny°) 111.28-29, 112.12-13; catvāro dhātu-gotrāh pradarśitāri MSV i.106.16; (3) like Skt. ākara, also origin: nikāyagati-gotrā ye Lank 292.16, paraphrasing nikāyagati sarņbhavāt (labhyante) 292.13; basis, source, cause, seea Bbh 2.25 punar etad gotram ādhāra ity ucyate, upastambho hetur niśraya upanisat pūrvamgamo nilaya ity ucyate . . . (3.1 gotram d vivid ham, prakrtistham samudānītam ca, natural and acquired.. .); 3.6 f. tat punar gotram bljam ity apy ucyate, dhātuh prakrtir ity api (cf. gotra = blja, hetu, AbhidhK. L a V - P . vii.49); (4) prob. as special development of prec, kind, class, category (like Skt. jāti, of similar origin and lit. mg.): nānāratna-gotra-puspapratimaņaMte Lank 1.7, adorned with flowers (made of) various kinds of jewels; so prob. vijftaptl-gotra-sarņchannam Lank 269.12, covered by (various) classes of relative (worldly,

practical) knowledge (see vijflapti).
Rangjung Yeshe's English Term kinds, types (ggd). 1) kinds, varieties, types, aspects. 2) caste, bloodline, lineage, extraction, birth, descent, lineage, family, noble, potential, class, gene (spiritual genes), type, category, status. 2) specific spiritual family, Buddha family. 3) Buddha nature. 4) nature. Syn (snying po) 5) reason. 6) certain (in end of sentence) it is certain!. 7) will understand. 8) causal ground. 9) possibility, capability, potential. 10) philosophy. 11) realm. Syn khams. 12) appropriateness. 13) gotra, here "go" comes from guna, quality. "Tra" means to protect. So gotra means to protect the qualities (yon tan skyob pa).
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.


Mahāvyutpatti