Cognitive obscurations (Skt. jñeyavaraṇa; Tib. ཤེས་བྱའི་སྒྲིབ་པ་, ཤེས་སྒྲིབ་, shé drip; Wyl. shes sgrib) are defined according to their essence, cause and function.
In essence, they are thoughts that involve the three conceptual ‘spheres’ of subject, object and action. The Gyü Lama says:
- "Thoughts that involve the three spheres,
- These are the cognitive obscurations."
Their cause is grasping at phenomena as truly existent, or, in other words, the “self of phenomena”.
Their function is to prevent complete enlightenment.
According to Mipham Rinpoche, the cognitive obscurations are overcome in their imputation (kun btags) aspect at the path of seeing and in their innate (lhan skyes) aspect on the path of meditation. Complete enlightenment is reached when the most subtle cognitive obscurations--which are habitual tendencies--are overcome by means of what is called the “[[vajra-like samadhi,” at the end of the tenth bhumi.