How not to avoid speaking

Journal of Indian Philosophy 24 (5):541-562 (1996)
Mahayana Buddhist philosophers’ attitude toward language is notoriously negative. The transcendental reality is often said to be ineffable. One’s obsession to apprehend the truth through words is an intellectual disease to be cured Attachment to verbal and conceptual proliferation enslaves oneself in the afflictive circle of life and death. Nevertheless, no Buddhist can afford to overlook the significance of language in preaching Buddhist dharmas as well as in day-to-day transactions. The point is not that of keeping silence. Rather, one should understand and use language in such a way that one alludes to the unsayable reality and somehow escapes the bewitchment of language. Perhaps with this realization in mind, Mahayana Buddhist metaphysicians had fostered the penchant for using, at the sentential level, denials, negations and paradoxes to couch their views. In a similar vein but mainly at the word level, Dignaga (ca. 480-540 CE) the Yogacara epistemologist’ offered us a theory of language known as apoha doctrine in his landmark work Pramiinasamuccaya (henceforth PS). It is the purpose of this article to construe the doctrine.
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