On Not Understanding Extraordinary Language in the Buddhist Tantra of Japan
2. Why “Extraordinary Language”?
3. Extraordinary Language in Japanese Buddhist Tantra and the Tantric Penumbra
4. Question, Thesis, and Significance
5. Philosophy of Language
5.1. Language as Communication
Anything other than the information, the meaning, that is received in the process of communication is “noise.” This can be referred to as the “encoding–decoding” theory of language, which is at the same time a theory of mind, also serving for example as a model of memory in some theories.Speaker and hearer use language to communicate. Typically, communication involves a message encoded by the sender into some kind of signal and sent through a channel to the receiver, who receives the signal and decodes the message. In a regular speech situation, there is a speaker who is the sender, and the message is what she wants to get across to the hearer, who is the receiver. The signal consists of sound waves, which encode words and sentences, the channel is the air, and the hearer decodes the sound waves.
5.2. History of the Philosophy of Language—In Brief
5.3. Philosophy of Religious Language
5.4. Philosophy of Language and Indic Understandings of Language
- symbolic logic:
- quantification:It is possible to interpret the four options of the catuskoti, the fourfold arrangement of possibilities (is: “all A are B,” is not “all A are not B,” both “some A are B,” neither “some A are not B”) as having different quantifications, but as with variables, this was not developed in the direction indicated by Soames.
- semantics as logic:
- sense and reference (Sinn and Bedeutung):Mark Siderits has asserted that “It is generally accepted that Indian philosophers of language do not posit sense as a component of the meaning of an expression in addition to its reference” (Siderits 1991, p. 65). He goes on to claim, however, that “recognition of something sense-like is forced” on some thinkers, despite the tradition being “dominated by an extreme realist view of all semantic properties” (Siderits 1991, p. 65). Ołena Łucyszyna has examined in some detail the difficulties of ascertaining the view of the Sankhya school on meaning. She indicates that there is a general absence of clarity about whether meaning is referentially a particular existing entity, or a generalization (Łucyszyna 2016, pp. 305–7), though in either case there does not appear to have been any clear distinction correlating to that of sense and reference.
- representational content as truth conditions:There is no corresponding inquiry in Indian thought on language.
- compositional calculus:This is an area with a well-developed correlate, particularly in the works of Bhartṛhari regarding the location of meaning in words or in sentences (sphoṭa). Siderits refers to this as the “problem of sentential unity.” He suggests that there are two views generally found in Indian thought. The first is “that each word in a sentence completes its semantic function by introducing its denotation, the task being performed independently of the semantic contributions of the other words” (Siderits 1991, p. 10). The second is “that the semantic function of a word is to denote its referent in relation to the denotata of the other words occurring in a sentence in which that word occurs” (Siderits 1991, p. 10).
But with all this it should not be forgotten that … semantics in the Sanskrit tradition never became the well-defined domain of a separate discipline. The exegetes, logicians and grammarians that dealt with semantic issues were first of all disputing on the ontological and epistemological status of linguistic, semantic, and ‘real-world’ entities.
The modern study of sphoṭa and related issues is contaminated by ideas borrowed from Western philosophy and linguistics to the extent that a major intellectual effort is required to understand these concepts once again in their own cultural context.
6. Explanations of Tantric Language
6.1. Magical Language
6.2. Contortions Needed to Avoid Connotations of “Magical Language”
Rhetorically, this serves to make whatever is said about language by Kūkai philosophical, without critically reflecting on the significance or consequences of attributing that category to Kūkai’s thought. Kasulis also makes a rhetorical move establishing the meaningful comparability of Kūkai and Plato by setting both in opposition to what he simply claims is an archaic view of language, which is seemingly his own speculative construct of a unitary conception that “words are generally believed to have a creative, magical power” (Kasulis 1982, p. 392). In support of his suggestion that there is such an identifiably coherent “archaic view,” he provides one instance each from the Bible, Ṛg Veda, and Daodejing.Early in its development, a philosophical tradition will consider the nature of language, for language is, after all, the medium of philosophical expression. To be truly philosophical, an inquiry must have at least a rudimentary theory about the relationship between words and nonlinguistic reality. This does not mean that every cultural tradition will make the same initial decision about this relationship. We only require that a preliminary theory of language be logically consistent and a reasonable reflection of at least some aspect of language as used in everyday life.
6.3. Performative Language
We cite this at length in order to exemplify some of the many problems involved in such an attempt to interpret mantra by reference to the idea of performative language use, as well as incidentally some other claims made about mantra.Mantras spoken in ritual activity actually do something. Thus, even from their earliest conception in the Rgveda, mantras are classical examples of what are now called “speech acts.” However, whereas modern thought emphasizes the performative nature of the speech act at the expense of its communication function, the Rgvedic seers are emphatic that while the spoken mantra can do things, the basis for that power is located in its revelation of truth (ta, satya). Although mantras from later Indian tradition can be of a nonsensical nature, in the Rgvedic period it seems clear that a mantra must reveal meaning. Indeed the original sense of mantra as a vehicle for reflection and revelation becomes operationalized by the late Rgvedic seers and priests. “Mantra is the tool, the mechanism, for yoking the reflective power of the seer into the machinery of ritual.”(Coward and Goa 2004, pp. 16–17; internal references to Austin, Tambiah, and Findly elided.)
in the course of a rite, the Agnīdh officiant is supposed to heat up potsherds in which offerings will be heated by covering them with coals, and as he covers them the Agnīdh is supposed to utter the mantra bh´ṛgūṇām áṅgirasāṁ tápasā tapyadhvam (Vājasaneyisaṁhitā 1.18) ‘Heat up with the ascetic heat of the Bhṛgu, of the Aṅgiras.’ As Patañjali remarks, the officiant addresses the potsherds with this mantra after he puts them on the fire, although even without the mantra the fire, whose very action is to burn would heat them. A restriction is provided, whereby the act thus performed produces the good results desired, felicity.
Fourth, what do they mean by “reveal meaning”? Are they equating “truth” (or as others do, purpose) with “meaning”? What kind of meaning are they intending to claim mantra reveal? Fifth, in the quote from Findly, it is the “reflective power of the seer” that seems to be operational. But they do not explain what that is—how is reflection powerful? How does such power effectuate mantra? The assertions made by Coward and Goa appear to be dense with significance, but upon critical examination, so much is left unexplained as to leave the reader with no significance. Perhaps the philosophically most contentious issue is their assertion that performative language also communicates meaning.the idea of a mantra-dhāraṇī as an act of truth expresses several somewhat problematic questions. First, it is evident that many of them cannot be truth in the sense of truth-conditional semantics, for at least some do not exclusively express statements comprehensible in natural language. Second, their presumption of efficacy appears dependent on the narrative of initial expression, and the needs of the individual in the subject case of the narrative … the direction of fit is to refashion the world into a vessel that is in accord with the intention and desire of the speaker, who speaks the words of the Buddha through his own mouth.
6.4. Pragmatics and Extraordinary Language
- precipitating assertives, descriptions of the situation in which a dhāṛaṇī is to be taught;
- directives, assertions that one should use the dhāraṇī;
- commissives, promises to teach the dhāraṇī;
- precedent or predictive assertives, previous or future uses of the dhāraṇī;
- benefit assertives, descriptions of the benefits to be derived from use of the dhāraṇī;
- hybrid warning assertives, warnings to those who do not adhere to or accept the efficacy of the dhāraṇī;
- expressives, praise, homage, etc., regarding the dhāraṇī;
- perlocutionary expressives, descriptions of the joy and amazement of the audience receiving the dhāraṇī; and
- the mantra-dhāraṇī itself (Davidson 2014, p. 11).
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Payne, R.K. On Not Understanding Extraordinary Language in the Buddhist Tantra of Japan. Religions 2017, 8, 223. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100223
Payne RK. On Not Understanding Extraordinary Language in the Buddhist Tantra of Japan. Religions. 2017; 8(10):223. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100223Chicago/Turabian Style
Payne, Richard K. 2017. "On Not Understanding Extraordinary Language in the Buddhist Tantra of Japan" Religions 8, no. 10: 223. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8100223