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Intelligence or Wisdom (Skt. prajñā; Tib. ཤེས་རབ་, sherab, Wyl. shes rab) — one of the fifty-one mental states defined in Abhidharma literature. According to the Compendium of Abhidharma, it belongs to the subgroup of the five object-determining mental states.


In the Khenjuk, Mipham Rinpoche says:

  • Tib. ཤེས་རབ་ནི་བརྟག་པའི་ཆོས་རབ་ཏུ་རྣམ་པར་འབྱེད་པ་སྟེ་སོམ་ཉི་ཟློག་པའི་ལས་ཅན་ནོ།
  • Intelligence is to fully discern the examined phenomenon. Its function is to remove doubt.[1](Rigpa Translations)
  • Discrimination means fully discerning the examined object. Its function is to cast away uncertainty. (Erik Pema Kunsang)

Alternative Translations

  • Full Knowing (David Karma Choepel[2])
  • Discriminative awareness (Gyurme Dorje)
  • discernment


  1. It could be argued that intelligence is a very accurate choice here, since according to the Oxford dictionary, intelligence comes from the Latin intelligere, which comes from inter 'between' + legere 'choose'.
  2. David Karma Choepel: Variously translated in other translations as wisdom, discernment, supreme knowledge, or left untranslated but anglicized as prajna, this term refers to both an ordinary mental factor present with every cognition as well as, especially in Great Vehicle scriptures and treatises, the sixth transcendence, transcendent full knowing. Although at first glance, these might seem to be entirely different, the Buddha characterizes both in the sutras as fully distinguishing dharma from nondharma. In other words, it is fully knowing what is true and what is not, or intelligence. The English word wisdom seems a good translation for the term ye shes (jnana), so it seems best not to use it for shes rab to avoid confusion between the two. Discernment seems quite appropriate for the mental factor that accompanies ordinary cognitions but somehow “transcendent discernment” does not sound particularly inspiring. Supreme knowledge is a very literal translation of the Tibetan explanations of the etymology of the word, but it is rather opaque. No one could argue that prajna has the wrong meaning, but English speakers do not naturally understand it and might think of it as being something exalted and foreign— not something that is associated with everything that happens in our minds. For these reasons, full knowing seems the best translation.