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Key Term dhātu
Hover Popup Choices dhatu; dhātu; basic element
In Tibetan Script ཁམས་
Wylie Tibetan Transliteration khams
Devanagari Sanskrit Script धातु
Romanized Sanskrit dhātu
Tibetan Phonetic Rendering kham
Chinese Script
Chinese Pinyin jiè
English Standard element
Karl Brunnhölzl's English Term basic element
Richard Barron's English Term realm; constituent element; fundamental nature; components of ordinary experience; fundamental being
Jeffrey Hopkin's English Term essential constituent
Ives Waldo's English Term region; realm; element; nature; cause and seed
Term Type Noun
Source Language Sanskrit
Basic Meaning A fundamental component or essential constituent.
Has the Sense of A term that has numerous meanings depending on the context, including physical realms or regions, the (five) elements, as well as aspects of the sense organs, bases, and fields. In terms of buddha-nature theory, it is often treated as synonymous with terms like gotra and garbha or even as equivalents of buddha-nature itself, such as sugatagarbha.
Did you know? In the Ratnagotravibhāga, dhātu is synonymous with gotra, the final element that enables all beings to become buddhas. (Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, p 254)
Related Terms gotra;buddhadhātu
Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism

See page 254: In Sanskrit and Pāli, “element”; a polysemous term with wide application in Buddhist contexts.

In epistemology, the dhātus refer to the eighteen elements through which sensory experience is produced: the six sense bases, or sense organs (indriya; viz., eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind); the six corresponding sense objects (ālambana; viz., forms, sounds, odors, tastes, tangible objects, and mental phenomena); and the six sensory consciousnesses that result from contact (sparśa) between the corresponding base and object (vijñāna; viz., visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and mental consciousnesses). As this list makes clear, the eighteen dhātus also subsume the twelve āyatana (sense-fields). The dhātus represent one of the three major taxonomies of dharmas found in the sūtras (along with skanda and āyatana), and represent a more primitive stage of dharma classification than the elaborate analyses found in much of the mature abhidharma literature (but cf. Dharmaskandha).

In a physical sense, dhātu is used to refer to the constituent elements of the physical world, of which four are usually recognized in Buddhist materials: earth, water, fire, and wind. Sometimes two additional constituents are added to the list: space (ākāśa) and consciousness (vijñāna).

In the Ratnagotravibhāga, dhātu is synonymous with gotra, the final element that enables all beings to become buddhas.
sutra/śastra quote:

The dhātu of beginningless time
Is the foundation of all phenomena.
Due to its existence, all forms of existence

And also nirvāṇa are obtained.
sutra/śastra quote source: The Abhidharmamahāyānasūtra, as cited in the Ratnagotravibhāgavyākhyā, Chapter 1, verse 149—152. Translated by Karl Brunnhölzl.