When Expression Is Expressed, Non-expression Is Not-Expressed: A Zen Buddhist Approach to Talking About the Ineffable

Part of the Comparative Philosophy of Religion book series (COPR, volume 1)


This paper approaches the ontological and the epistemological problems of ineffability from the perspective of Dōgen’s non-dualism. Reading Dōgen’s non-dualism in the context of the “doctrine of emptiness” (śūnyatāvāda) prevalent in Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy, this paper explores the implications of a position that does not distinguish the immanent from the transcendent and the effable from the ineffable. Within this system, every predication is effective, in some sense, and imperfect, in another. This paper discusses the structure of what I call Dōgen’s “philosophy of expression” and investigates its implications for an application to current philosophical discourses.



It is a honor to be included in this series of The Comparison Project. I would also like to thank the Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association (CBETA) and the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism for their invaluable online resources.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Luther CollegeDecorahUSA

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