De/limiting emptiness and the boundaries of the ineffable

Journal of Indian Philosophy 38 (1):97-105 (2010)
Emptiness ( śūnyatā ) is one of the most important topics in Buddhist thought and also is one of the most perplexing. Buddhists in Tibet have developed a sophisticated tradition of philosophical discourse on emptiness and ineffability. This paper discusses the meaning(s) of emptiness within three prominent traditions in Tibet: the Geluk ( dge lugs ), Jonang ( jo nang ), and Nyingma ( rnying ma ). I give a concise presentation of each tradition’s interpretation of emptiness and show how each interpretation represents a distinctive aspect of its meaning. Given that Buddhist traditions (1) accept an extra-linguistic reality and (2) maintain a strong tradition of suspicion of language with the belief that language both constructs and distorts reality, this paper responds to an issue that is not so much whether or not an inexpressible reality can be expressed, but rather how it is best articulated.
Keywords Emptiness  Ineffability  Tibet  Mipam  Buddhism
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