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Lankavatara Sutra: “Are words themselves the highest reality?”

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In the Lankavatara Sutra, pupil Mahamati askes the Buddha about the realation between words and the highest reality


Are words themselves the highest reality? Or what is expressed in words the highest reality?


The Blessed One (Buddha) replied: Mahāmati, words are not the highest reality, nor is what is expressed in words the highest reality. Why? Because the highest reality is an exalted state of bliss, and as it cannot be entered into by mere statements regarding it, words are not the highest reality. Mahāmati,


satyān nāsti paro dharma
सत्यान्नास्ति परो धर्मः

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; it is not a state of word-discrimination; therefore, discrimination does not express the highest reality. And then , Mahāmati, words are subject to birth and destruction; they are unsteady, mutually conditioning, and are produced by the law of causation. And again, Mahāmati, what is  mutually conditioning and produced by the law of causation cannot express the highest reality, because the indications [pointing to distinction between] self and not-self are non-existent. Mahāmati, words are these indications and do not express [the highest reality].

Further, Mahāmati, word discrimination cannot express the highest reality, for external objects with their multitudinous individual marks are non-existent, and only appear before us as something revealed out of mind itself. Therefore, Mahāmati, you must try to keep yourself away from the various forms of word-discrimination.


From: Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra

(A Mahāyana Buddhist text translated by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki)

  1. From: Global Philosophical and Ecological Concepts by Rudi Jansma, Publ. Motilal Banarsidass Pvt. Ltd., Delhi, India; 941 pp. (2 Vols.) ISBN: 978-81-208-3198-8 []