Skip to main content


Nimitta (Pāli, Skt.). In Buddhism, variously translated as ‘outward aspect’, ‘general appearance’, ‘perceived object’, ‘mark’, ‘image’, ‘sign’, ‘omen’. Its five most significant usages are as follows.1. In canonical Buddhism, the outward aspect or general appearance of an object; that aspect which we find attractive (abhijjhā) or repulsive (domanassa) when our senses perceive things.2. In meditation, the perceptual objects used for contemplation (kammaṭṭhāna) are referred to as nimitta because they function as a mark, sign, or image on which the eye and mind focus their attention.3. According to the Pāli Commentaries (Aṭṭhakathā), at the last moment of consciousness before death the sign of previous karma (kamma-nimitta) together with the sign of future destiny (gati-nimitta) arise as mental objects, as an indication of that person's impending rebirth.4. It is the term for the ‘signs’ or ‘omens’ of old age, sickness, death, and the wandering mendicant which, according to legend, convinced the Buddha to leave home and lead the ascetic life.5. In the Yogacārya (Vijñānavāda) branch of Buddhism, it is the term for the perceived object, which has no existence independently of the perceiver but is merely a representation of his inner consciousness.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Nimitta." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . 20 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Nimitta." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . (February 20, 2019).

"Nimitta." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved February 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.