Eight spheres of subjugation

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The eight spheres of subjugation (Tib. ཟིལ་གྱིས་གནོན་པའི་སྐྱེ་མཆེད་བརྒྱད་, Wyl. zil gyis gnon pa'i skye mched brgyad), or eight dominant ayatanas are part of the twenty-one sets of immaculate qualities.

Of these there are four spheres or ayatanas that are so called because they control and dominate “shapes.”

  • (1) Perceiving themselves as embodied, buddhas have power over all larger physical forms. They know them and see them.
  • (2) Perceiving themselves as physically embodied, buddhas have power over smaller physical forms. They know them and see them.
  • (3) Perceiving themselves as being disembodied, they have power over larger forms.
  • (4) Perceiving themselves as disembodied, they have power over smaller forms.

Likewise, there are four ayatanas that control color. Perceiving themselves as disembodied, buddhas have power over the four colours of outer phenomena, knowing them and seeing them. These four ayatanas are related to the (primary) colours of

  • (5) blue,
  • (6) yellow,
  • (7) white, and
  • (8) red.

What is the meaning of these ayatanas? By perceiving themselves as disembodied or as being of indestructible form, Buddhas perceive things that (to us) appear fair or ugly, wholesome or unwholesome—but without subscribing to the reality of such qualitative differences. Thus Buddhas can change big into small and so forth, performing wonders of transformation and production. It is through shamatha that they control and know, and it is through vipashyana that they control and see.

When it is said that the Buddhas perceive themselves as embodied or otherwise, this refers to whether, in the performance of the above mentioned wonders, the Buddhas are visible or invisible to others.[1]


  1. Longchen Yeshe Dorje, Kangyur Rinpoche and Jigme Lingpa, Treasury of Precious Qualities: Book One (Shambhala, revised edition 2011), Appendix 9.