“That From Which All Words Return”: The Distinctive Methods of Language Utilization in Advaita Vedānta

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


Although Advaita acknowledges the words of the Upaniṣads to be the valid means for knowing brahman, the tradition is cognizant of the limits and difficulties of instructing about brahman through words or other symbols. With all of their limitations, however, there is no avoiding of words—since the valid source of knowledge is constituted of words. Conventional words have to be used skillfully and in very special ways to overcome limits. This chapter examines a few of specific language strategies employed in Advaita for speaking and instructing about the nature of brahman. These include the method of superimposition and de-superimposition, the method of negation and the method of implication. Words can teach about brahman, but only when employed in skillful ways to neutralize their finite meanings. Such words, in the hands of a qualified teacher, can liberate from ignorance about the nature of the self (ātman).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St. Olaf CollegeNorthfieldUSA

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