Several recent writers have claimed that some of Naagaarjuna's ideas
are in agreement with those of the later Wittgenstein and that
Naagaarjuna can be seen as taking up a Wittgensteinian position against
his opponents. I believe that such views are mistaken and that it is, if
anything, the Tractarian nature of his philosophy which explains
"Naagaarjuna's paradox," namely, the fact that his effort to destroy all
views had the opposite result of creating scholasticisms both ancient
and modern which obscure the religious truth which was his principal
Before considering some recent works in detail, it is perhaps
worth remarking that their thesis of affinity is counterintuitive on the
face of it. First, because it would be truly surprising, in view of the
cultural and historical conditioning of thought, that two thinkers so
widely separated in culture and time should turn out to have identical
ideas.  Second, Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations,
compressed though it is,  is in part a sustained attack on the idea
of writing philosophy as brief dicta with minimal examples, which is
exemplified in Naagaarjuna and in Wittgenstein's earlier Tractatus.
Edward Conze has indeed protested against "Spurious Parallels to
Buddhist Philosophy,"  but one writer, Chris Gudmunsen, advises us to
advance beyond this "orthodoxy," and he boldly argues that "only a
Wittgensteinian interpretation will suffice for certain central Buddhist
Concepts."  Buddhism, we are told, has "less to fear" from
philosophy than Christianity has, since Buddhism has been "much more
overtly philosophical," and the Maadhyamika school "has least of all to
fear, since it represents philosophical Buddhism par excellence." 
One can only wonder at such remarks when one recalls how critical
Wittgenstein was of much of the philosophy that preceded him, including
his own earlier work. From this point of view, one's initial hypothesis
might be that the more a religion was indebted to a particular
philosophy, the more it had to lose as previous philosophical concepts
and methods were discarded. Catholicism's indebtedness to Thomistic
philosophy has not made it markedly adaptable to shifting cultural
emphases since the thirteenth century.
Frederick J. Streng thinks that "Naagaarjuna's use of words
for articulating Ultimate Truth would find champions in contemporary
philosophers of the language analysis school such as Ludwig Wittgenstein
or P. F. Strawson."  According to Streng, Naagaarjuna and
Wittgenstein agree in holding that
metaphysical propositions do not provide the knowledge that is
claimed by systematic metaphysicians. Words and expression-patterns are
simply practical tools of human life, which in themselves do not carry
intrinsic meaning and do not necessarily have meaning by referring to
something outside the language system.... The importance of this
understanding of the nature of meaning is
that it removes the necessity for finding a presupposed referent of a
symbol or a "name,'' and it denies that a single ontological system
based on the logical principle of the excluded middle is a necessary
requirement for an integrated world view. 
But this is very nearly the opposite of what Wittgenstein says. When
Wittgenstein tells us that "the term 'language-game' is meant to bring
into prominence the fact that the speaking of language is part of an
activity, or of a form of life,"  he at once offers examples such as:
giving orders, and obeying them; describing the appearance of an
object, or giving its measurements; reporting an event; forming and
testing a hypothesis; asking; praying; and many others. Now the whole
point of this is that language is to be viewed in terms of what is
"outside the language system," that is, our lives and activities. Since
words can be viewed as tools, words that did not refer to something
"outside the linguistic system" would be like tools which could neither
be handled by anybody nor applied to any objects. Take a scientist's
measurements of the sun, the prayers of Jesus, and the discourses of the
Buddha about suffering and nirvaa.na: what sense do these activities
have if they are not about something "outside the language system"?
What is a "presupposed referent"? Streng tells us in regard to
the "'mythical' (i.e., sacramental, magical)" structure of religious
apprehension and the "intuitive [i.e., mystical] structure of religious
apprehension" that "each assumes that there is an objective referent for
the concepts used to express Ultimate Truth."  Let us apply this
remark to some religious language. A historian tells us that John Wesley
aroused resentment among some of the colonists when he refused to give
communion to a woman with whom he had an unfortunate love affair, and
that later in London, while hearing Luther's Commentary on Romans being
read, Wesley "felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in
Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that
he had taken away my sins, even mine."  Now, are there any
"objective referents" here? If the term means anything there must be
several, some of which are: John Wesley, a woman, communion, sin,
Christ, and a heart "strangely warmed." Indeed, the historian's language
would be unintelligible were the reader not to understand what he was
referring to in his description of Wesley's life. There is certainly
nothing in Wittgenstein that would prohibit one from trying to discover
what a given statement is referring to. Of course, it may be the case
that some of Naagaarjuna's opponents thought that for a word to have any
meaning then the thing it refers to must exist, but, as the ancients
themselves pointed out, "rabbit horns and tortoise hairs... have names
but do not have actuals." 
As for the law of excluded middle, Wittgenstein did not attack
it. He did say that we were sometimes tempted to invoke it when it
conceals more than it reveals, such as when we might say: "Either it's
five o'clock on the sun or it's not," or "Either the stove's in pain or
it's not."  The primary issue in these examples is what it could
possibly mean to say that it's five o'clock on the sun or the stove is
pain. The exact meaning of Streng's sentence about the excluded
middle is unclear, but he does go on to say that Wittgenstein's position
"also denies that the metaphysical problem of relating the 'one'
essence to the 'many' forms is important for learning about the nature
of reality."  The philosopher Plotinus believed that he had an
experience of union with the One and he was concerned about how to
describe the relation of the One to the many. Are we to suppose that
Wittgenstein would have said that such concerns were not important "for
learning about the nature of reality"? To my knowledge, the later
Wittgenstein nowhere says or suggests anything of the sort. Augustine
was heavily influenced by Plotinus and neo-Platonism is his theology,
and Wittgenstein told Malcom that he had prefaced the investigations
with a quotation from Augustine because the conception expressed there
"must be important if so great a mind held it."  Wittgenstein
believed that he had developed a new perspective on philosophy, but he
did not thereby suggest that either his own earlier work or the work of
the great philosophers before him was unimportant "for learning about
the nature of reality." I do not believe, furthermore, that he ever
addressed the issue of necessary requirements "for an integrated world
view." I suppose he might have said that a world view should make sense,
but the variety of ways in which that is possible just about excludes
any meaningful general discussion of "necessary requirements" (or even
Streng believes that Wittgenstein, like Naagaarjuna, would not
accept the views of the function of words found in the mythical and
intuitive structures of religious apprehension. In the mythical
structure, "because certain words have the power to bring forth the
ultimately real, they are regarded as having exclusive intrinsic value
over against other words."  If a Hindu believes that chanting "Om"
is a particularly revealing and meaningful practice which is far
superior to chanting "Wesley" or "peanut butter, " what philosophical
basis would Wittgenstein have for rejecting this idea? Wittgenstein was
concerned about the use of language, and chants have a clear use in
religious life. So the meaning of such practices is not an issue. Of
course, Wittgenstein may not personally believe the Hindu or any other
religious view, but that is a far different matter from his taking issue
with the notion that "the stove is in pain" is a meaningful statement. A
similar objection can be made regarding Wittgenstein and the intuitive
structure which holds that "no expression is adequate to bear the
fullness of reality which must be finally known by a non-symbolical
means: intuition."  Wittgenstein has no philosophical basis for
denying such a belief. It may not be a belief that he personally holds,
but on the other hand he was an admirer of Augustine, George Fox,
Tolstoy, and Kierkegaard, and it is highly unlikely that any of them
would take issue with the intuitive structure as stated above. There are
indeed philosophers-logical positivists and certain anthropologists,
among others -- who have taken it upon themselves to relieve their
"inferiors" of the notion that their religious beliefs make sense, but
Wittgenstein was about as far
removed from such views as one can get. The swollen-headedness and
vanity of such a position was appalling to him. Note his remarks on Sir
James Frazer's Golden Bough:
What narrowness of spiritual life in Frazer! Hence: how impossible
for him to comprehend a life different from the English life of his
Frazer cannot imagine a priest who is not basically an English parson of our time, with all his stupidity and vapidness. 
Streng holds that there is a third structure of religious
apprehension, the dialectical, which is Naagaarjuna's: he "denies that
all words gain their meaning by referring to something outside of the
language system...; the relationship between words in a statement...
[is] only of practical value and not indicative of ontological status."
 But if this is Naagaarjuna's view it is not Wittgenstein's, as we
can see from the preceding remarks. Streng is mistaken both in
attributing the "dialectical" position to Wittgenstein and in saying
that he would deny the mythical and intuitive structures of meaning.
Naagaarjuna may be correct in his religious beliefs; Wittgenstein would
have regarded himself as being in not much of a position to say anything
about that. But if Naagaarjuna held the philosophical ideas which
Streng attributes to him, Wittgenstein would have contradicted him.
Chris Gudmunsen makes several comparisons between
Wittgenstein and Naagaarjuna; I will focus on what he calls "the basic
criticism"  According to Gudmunsen, while the Abhidharmists wanted
to "get the dharmas in view, " the Praj~naapaaramitaa literature
asserted that there was "no way of 'correctly' identifying and naming
necessarily private dharmas."  The Mahaayaanists held that each
dharma "is nothing in and by itself..., and so is ultimately
nonexistent."  Previously Gudmunsen had quoted Wittgenstein's remark
that "if we construe the grammar of the expression of sensation on the
model of 'object and designation', the object drops out of consideration
as irrelevant."  He then says that the dharma "has 'dropped out'
and, as with Wittgenstein, we are left with a name referring apparently
to nothing."  Naagaarjuna expressed this idea by saying all dharmas
are "empty." They are, in Wittgenstein's terms, "illustrated turns of
speech."  But this does not mean that the word "hope" stands for
nothing either in Wittgenstein or the Maadhyamika, for as Wittgenstein
And yet you again reach the conclusion that the sensation itself is a
nothing -- Not at all. It is not a something, but not a nothing either!
The conclusion was only that a nothing would serve as well as a
something about which nothing could be said. We have only rejected the
grammar which tries to force itself on us here. 
But it is a mistake to compare Wittgenstein's criticism of
"private" sensations and objects to Naagaarjuna's and the Mahaayaana
criticism of dharma theory. What are the dharmas? There are three
classifications shared by all the Buddhist schools: the five skandhas,
the twelve sense-fields, and the eighteen elements. 
The skandhas, as an example, are form, feelings, perceptions,
impulses, and consciousness. While there is a strong analytic element in
dharma analysis, Conze warns us that
the rational approach is only provisional and preparatory, and must
be followed by a spiritual intuition, the direct and unconceptual
character of which is stressed by words as "to see," "to taste," "to
touch with the body"!... Ready-made conceptions are of no avail here,
and what lies beyond the perceptible world of appearances also
transcends the realm of logical thought.
The final home of dharma analysis is meditation and the purpose is
soteriological: the removal of ignorance which "clouds the mirror of
original wisdom." 
Now Wittgenstein in the Investigations had no such concern. He
was interested in our tendency to think, for example, that "only I can
know whether I am really in pain; another person can only surmise it,"
 so that one might have a "private" language the words of which "are
to refer to what can only be known to the person speaking."  Now
our idea of a "word" is of something that can be used rightly or
wrongly, but what would it be to remember a "private" word right? "In
the present case I have no criterion of correctness. One would like to
say: whatever is going to seem right to me is right. And that only means
that here we can't talk about 'right'."  A "private" word is no
word at all. Having a "private" object is like everyone's having a
"beetle" in a box which only he can inspect. Everyone could have
something different in his box or the thing might constantly be
changing. "The thing in the box has no place in the language-game at
all; not even, as a something: for the box might even he empty." 
Wittgenstein, then, was concerned with the concepts of language
and meaning and the philosophical problems connected with references to
our psychic life. He particularly wanted to expunge the "privacy" view
which can be so tempting when we begin to think philosophically about
these things. But he had no intention of questioning everyday
expressions and discussions about our feelings, thoughts, hopes, and so
forth. The meditative context of the discussion about dharmas is
especially something he was not concerned with. It is a characteristic
of language that it can be learned. Now some things are harder to learn
than others, and the meditative significance of terms is an instance of
this. But being difficult to learn does not make something "private"; it
only means that one will usually need the guidance of a teacher. But
Wittgenstein's "private" terms could not be learned at all. There is no
sense at all to a discussion of the "private" objects that such words
would refer to.
None of these objections to "private" objects has any bearing on
dharmas. Gudmunsen does cite an ancient objection by Haribhadra that one
"cannot distinguish the various objects to which the different words
refer."  But the Abhidharmists had listed from between seventy-five
to one-hundred dharmas, depending on the school,  and it is not
surprising, therefore, that a student might indeed have difficulty
distinguishing all of these dharmas. This difficulty, however, does not
apply to the skandhas or the sense-fields such as eye, ear, nose,
and so forth; these could be distinguished well enough; none of them
is a "private" object which "only I could know." What was the main
objection to dharma analysis? According to Sangharakshita, the
Abhidharma may be viewed as "reducing the Scriptures to a gigantic
card-index file system, and substituting for penetrating Insight a
retentive memory,"  with the contemporary result that there is
"almost a total neglect of the practice of Meditation which is so
striking a feature of modern Theravada Buddhism."  He adds that
"theoretical knowledge... has been in some instances mistaken for
Wisdom."  Conze tells us that the Mahaayaana in reaction to the
the separateness of these dharmas as merely a provisional
construction, urges us on to see everywhere just one emptiness and
condemns all forms of multiplicity as arch enemies of the higher
spiritual vision and insight.... Once we jump out of our intellectual
habits, emptiness is revealed as the concrete fullness...; no longer a
dead nothingness beyond, but the lifegiving womb of the Tathaagata
within us. 
Gudmunsen thinks that "the private object, for both Wittgenstein
and the Mahaayaana, drops out of consideration as irrelevant, leaving a
name which doesn't refer to anything."  But the principal Mahaayaana
contention was that dharmas were "empty" or of merely a provisional
character, not that the terms of dharma analysis do not refer to
anything. On this point Gudmunsen's comparison of Wittgenstein and
Naagaarjuna is mistaken.
Ives Waldo has compared Naagaarjuna and Wittgenstein in
two articles.  In the first he says that Naagaarjuna's criticism of
the idea of svabhaava (own-being) in the Muulamaadhyamikakaarikaas
("MK") "directly parallels Wittgenstein's argument that a private
language (an empiricist language) is impossible. Having no logical links
(criteria) to anything outside their defining situation, its words must
be empty of significance or use."  Waldo goes on to explain:
The necessary existence of such relational conditions (pratyaya)
refutes both the theory of svabhaava and the possibility that
significant events might arise with no relational conditions at all.
Significance lies not in the substantial, experientially given, and
certain; but in that which is relational, metaperceptual, and
hypothetical. A man born blind who later gains his sight finds no
significance in his visual field. 
But this gives rise to a dilemma. If "significance and existence must
be understood in terms of pratyaya, which entails the arising of being
and significance from another (parabhaava)," then "how can there be
other-being without there being eventually some other which has
own-being?"  If, like the Praasa^nghikas, "we take this dilemma at
face value, we will be forced to conclude that language is radically
arbitrary and incoherent."  The Svaatantrikas, on the other hand,
wanted to stress the validity of the lower truth. Yet
Bhaavaviveka describes the lower truth as involving the incoherent
svabhaava concept and the higher as indescribable. On this basis he
cannot coherently differentiate the sense in which he means these terms
from the usage of the Praasanghikas....
The answer to the dilemma is that what constitutes an element of a
relational system is itself a part of that system, not something
existing prior to it. The system provides criteria whereby its elements
are to be identified. 
Waldo footnotes the next to the last remark with a reference to Wittgenstein's Investigations.
In his second article Waldo says that he had not previously
gotten to the heart of the matter in his discussion of
Pratiityasamutpaada involves self-reference. But what relationship is
it exactly, and what are its implications? Insofar as ordinary language
can tell us, the job has already been done by the followers of Hwa Yen
and Tantric schools. The logical obscurity of the results, the Hall of
Mirrors simile and the like, are legendary. Ordinary language is out of
its depths here.... This leaves us no choice but to employ formalism.
Waldo's choice of formalism is G. Spencer Brown's. After an
explanation of Brown's symbolism he goes on to say that Naagaarjuna can
be understood as saying that
the status of an individuality or of predication is relative, first,
to our linguistic system and second, to our practical objectives in a
given case of using that system.....An artist may find it more
convenient to speak at length of what looks "apple-y" than about apples.
Philosophers often turn common predicates into substantives, like
Waldo compares his results with Wittgenstein:
For Wittgenstein, a word or a perception of something has
significance when logically connected into the criterial network of the
language game. The private language argument explores the possibility
that there might be elements identified independently of and prior to
this network, like Naagaarjuna's svabhaavas. But this possibility is
rejected. The rejection of atomic elements in the language system means
that the elements must support each other mutually. This is exactly the
sort of conceptual connection that Naagaarjuna calls interdependent
arising. The various elements of our criterial network support each
other relatively, but every justification of knowledge consists only of
another element within our own epistemic system. There is no external or
independent justification because the speaker and the external
environment are both constructs within the system. 
I don't know if Naagaarjuna survives this comparison intact, but
Wittgenstein does not. This is a serious distortion of his views. The
later Wittgenstein has no interest in a "linguistic system" or the
notion that it might be necessary to "employ formalism" in order to
reveal the system that is already there. Perhaps these remarks could be
made about the Tractatus. Wittgenstein once thought that "if all objects
are given, then at the same time all possible states of affairs are
also given," and that "if elementary propositions are given, then at the
all elementary propositions are given."  "Language disguises
thought."  but the philosopher can by analysis reveal the logic of
language. The meaning involved would be clear and indisputable since "a
proposition has only one complete analysis."  Although the Vienna
Circle understood the Tractatus to be a development of British
empiricism,  it nowhere says either that the "objects" can be
experienced or that "verification" is required. A proposition is
"understood by anyone who understands its constituents,"  that is,
he must know what the names stand for; nothing is said about
"experience" of objects.
In the Investigations, moreover, Wittgenstein says nothing about
the "elements" of a language game being in a "criterial network." On the
contrary, he is concerned to criticize the search for "elements" as a
kind of sickness:
"A name signifies only what is an element of reality ..." -- But what
is that? -- Why, it swam before our minds as we said the sentence! This
was the very expression of a quite particular image: of a picture which
we want to use. For certainly experience does not show us these
When I say: "My broom is in the corner," -- is this really a
statement about the broomstick and the brush...? If we were to ask
anyone if he meant this he would probably say that he had not thought
specially of the broomstick or specially of the brush at all. And that
would be the right answer. 
Wittgenstein situates language in our lives, so a philosopher might
say that Wittgenstein had two "elements" in his language games: language
and life. But what would be the use of such a remark unless it were to
make a joke? (Compare: "I have only one thing to do: live"!)
In the "private language" discussion, Wittgenstein is not
concerned with "elements" -- which he has already considered -- but with
the philosophical notion that our language has meaning because we bear
in mind or mean words in a certain way.  For then I could use words
in a way that only I could understand, since the meaning is given by
what I bear in mind and I can bear in mind whatever I please. Thus, I
might take a seat in a restaurant and say "I would like a hamburger" all
the while bearing in mind "Don't bring me anything." But by this sort
of "meaning" I could say anything or nothing since there would be no
incorrect or correct use, and this is absurd.
Wittgenstein does not say that "the speaker and the external
environment are both constructs within the system." What would it mean,
within the point of view of the Investigations, that the speaker is a
"construct"? Perhaps a Tractarian meaning could be given to such a
statement since there Wittgenstein was interested in simple elements,
the "objects," which "make up the substance of the world."  Is a
broom a "construct" of a handle and a brush, a man a "construct" of
flesh and bones? There is no absolute answer to such questions. 
Wittgenstein does not say that "a perception of something has
significance when logically connected with the criterial network of the
language game." A cat sees a mouse. This is significant, I suppose, for
the cat and the mouse, but this perception has its significance whether
or not the cat and the mouse -- or anyone at all, for that matter -- are
playing a language game. He does not say that a cat
and a mouse are "metaperceptual" and "hypothetical." Moreover, the
man born blind who gains his sight is irrelevant to Wittgenstein's
concerns. A cat or a man would, I imagine, have to learn how to see. But
this has no immediate bearing on our problem. If a cat learns to see a
mouse, this is significant whether or not any language games are played.
A man in a highly primitive situation might learn to see a banana, and
this would be significant whether or not he or anyone whom he knew could
speak a word.
Waldo has, I believe, Tractarian desires for a sublime logic for
which ordinary language is inadequate and for which language therefore
requires us to "employ formalism," all of which is quite foreign to
Wittgenstein's thought in the Investigations.
In philosophy we often compare the use of words with games and
calculi which have fixed rules, but cannot say that someone who is using
language must be playing such a game....
All this, however, can only appear in the right light when one
has attained greater clarity about the concepts of understanding,
meaning, and thinking. For it will then also become clear what can lead
us (and did lead me) to think that if anyone utters a sentence and means
or understands it he is operating a calculus according to definite
Every sentence in our language "is in order as it is." That is to
say, we are not striving after an ideal, as if our ordinary vague
sentences had not yet got a quite unexceptionable sense, and a perfect
language awaited construction by us....
Here it is difficult as it were to keep our heads up--to see that
we must stick to the subjects of our every-day thinking, and not go
astray and imagine that we have to describe extreme subtleties.... We
feel as if we had to repair a torn spider's web with our fingers. 
Furthermore, if one is going to formalize a philosophical discussion,
there has to be agreement both on the symbolism and on what is to be
formalized. But the satisfaction of the latter condition makes otiose
the project of formalization. Waldo's comparison of Wittgenstein and
Naagaarjuna is unsuccessful both in detail and in overall approach.
I wish to conclude with some remarks about what I call
"Naagaarjuna's paradox," namely, the fact that the results of his
efforts -- more Buddhist scholasticism -- were contrary to his purpose,
which I take to be reducing, if not eliminating, the arid scholasticism
of dharmapravicaya.  In order to understand the paradox, we need
first of all to have a clear idea of Naagaarjuna's overall teaching in
the Kaarikaas. For our purposes, I think this teaching may be
represented by the following theses.
1. It is dependent co-arising that we term emptiness; this is a
designation overlaid [on emptiness]; it alone is the Middle Path. (MK
24: 18) 
2. "Not caused by something else," "peaceful," "not elaborated by
discursive thought," "Indeterminate, " "undifferentiated": such are the
characteristics of true reality (tattva). (MK 18:9)
3. The self-existence of the "fully completed" [being] is the
self-existence of the world. The "fully completed" [being] is without
self-existence and the world is without self-existence. (MK 22: 16)
4. To him, possessing compassion, who taught the real dharma for the
destruction of all views -- to him, Gautama, I humbly offer reverence.
5. When the sphere of thought has ceased, the nameable ceases;
Dharma-nature is like nirvana, unarising and unceasing. (MK 18:7)
Before commenting briefly on how I understand these theses, it is
necessary to note that a substantial shift in content has taken place
in the transition from the consideration of "private language" arguments
to reflections on the teachings of a great Buddhist aacaarya, for that
is how tradition has conceived Naagaarjuna.  To have a firm grasp of
the realities indicated by terms such as "sensation," "mental states,"
"language," and "game" is one thing; to thoroughly understand the
realities signified by "nirvaa.na," "bodhi," and "tathaagata" is quite
another matter. A blind man can, indeed, comment on the judgments of a
sighted person; but he is foolish if he does not even attempt to note
his necessary limitations. "The crab digs its hole to the size of its
shell."  It is well to have a healthy respect for the "emptiness" of
our own judgments in this kind of a case if nowhere else.
I understand, then, Naagaarjuna to be saying that there is the
basic fact of relativity or dependent co-arising which we, at least
initially, experience as "a single mass of sorrows" (MK 26: 9). But
reality is in fact peaceful and undifferentiated, even "blissful." 
Peaceful reality and the mass of sorrows are not different. Absurdities
follow whenever the attempt is made to describe reality with any sort of
dualistic concept -- whether philosophical or ordinary -- and therefore
such attempts are rejected in principle as being both logically
contradictory and ultimately useless for the great work of liberation.
Liberation can occur when "the sphere of thought has ceased" in
meditation  and the Dharma-nature is understood as reality -- the
reality of oneself and everything else. By this account, concepts
themselves -- both ordinary ones and their philosophical elaborations --
"cover" reality  and are powerless to liberate. As for the
paradoxical nature of this teaching which destroys all views, one needs
to note that there are "two truths" (MK 24:8), the higher and the lower,
and one needs to keep in mind which level is under discussion.
Now, as Waldo has correctly suggested,  there is something
Tractarian about all this. According to the Tractatus one cannot say
what the logical form of all sentences is (since that would require
another sentence and a sentence cannot picture itself),  nor can
there be propositions about ethics, aesthetics, or religion:
"Propositions can express nothing that is higher."  It must be noted
"there are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make
themselves manifest. They are what is mystical."  We must go beyond
the propositions of the Tractatus. "What we cannot speak about we must
pass over in silence."  Likewise, Naagaarjuna would have us grasp
things which cannot be attained by conceptualization.
I think we are now in a position to understand better
"Naagaajuna's Paradox." To begin with, the "two truths" theory is
incoherent. For, first, it can be subjected to a Naagaarjunan critique:
Are the truths the same or different? If they are the same, they
collapse into one another and necessary distinctions are not made. If
they are different, a dualism is injected which is contrary to tattva as
described. Second, as we all at least must begin with the lower truth,
how are we to understand the "higher," since the "lower" concepts carry
their "higher" brethren (including the concepts of "higher" and "lower")
on their backs, so to say. Thomas Aquinas' idea of analogical
predication  suggests itself as ready-made for someone looking for a
"middle way" between sameness and difference. How useful such a theory
might be for Naagaarjuna's purposes is a topic which cannot be dealt
with here. But before one jumps to a conclusion about Christian
superiority in this matter, it is necessary to remember that Christian
exclusivism, combined with great confidence in the adequacy of
theological propositions to reality, has historically contributed to
substantial Christian violence against other Christians and
non-Christians. Religiously motivated homicide is much more difficult to
defend on the basis of Buddhist universalism and appreciation of the
"emptiness" of doctrines.
Lastly, one might observe that, contrary to Naagaarjuna and the
Tractatus, "the higher" is probably the very last thing about which
people could be expected to remain silent. This is because of the need
to express conceptually one's religious understanding in a way which
meaningfully relates that understanding to life. As the history of
Buddhism itself suggests,  even if the cultivation of discursive
consciousness is not the way to achieve direct religious insight, the
expression of that insight requires not only silence but also reasoning,
speech, and other significant gestures and actions.
1. "Naagaarjuna`s knowledge of logic is about on the same
level as Plato's" (Richard H. Robinson, "Some Logical Aspects of
Naagaarjuna's System," Philosophy East and West 6, no. 4 (January 1957):
2. "Further compression is impossible" (Norman Malcolm, Knowledge and
Belief (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963), p. 96).
3. Edward Conze, Buddhist Studies 1934-1972 (San Francisco,
California: Wheelwright, 1975); hereafter cited as Conze, Buddhist
Studies. Originally published in Philosophy East and West 13, no. 1
(January 1963): 105-115.
4. Chris Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism (London: Macmillan,
1977), p. viii; hereafter cited as Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism.
6. Frederick J. Streng, Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning
(Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon, 1967); hereafter cited as Streng,
Emptiness. Streng uses "Ultimate Truth" instead of "Ultimate Reality"
when discussing Naagaarjuna (ibid., p. 20, note 4).
7. Ibid., pp. 139f. A similar position is defended by Glyn Richards,
"Sunyata: Objective Referent or Via Negativa?" Religious Studies
14(1978): 251-260. "Language cannot describe the world" is the succinct
way David Loy describes Streng's position in "How Not to Criticize
Naagaarjuna: A Response to L. Stafford Betty, " Philosophy East and West
34, no. 4 (October 1984). I suspect, however, that such unadorned
phrasing might give Streng pause.
8. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M.
Anscombe, 2d ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1958), #23, hereafter cited as
9. I exclude the possibility that Streng is saying that if one can
talk about something then one cannot say that one cannot talk about it,
and therefore nothing we can talk about can be "outside the language
system." This is vacuous.
10. Streng. Emptiness, p. 138.
11. Kenneth S. Latourette, A History of Christianity (New York: Harper, 1953), p. 1025.
12. "Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise," in Richard H. Robinson,
Early Maadhyamika in India and China (Madison, Wisconsin: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1967), p. 50; hereafter cited as Robinson, Early
13. Wittgenstein, Investigations, #351 and 352.
14. Streng, Emptiness, p. 140.
15. Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 71.
16. Streng, Emptiness, p. 141.
17. Ibid., p. 138.
18. Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, " trans. Robert Monk, Synthese 17 (1967): p. 238.
19. Streng. Emptiness, p. 141.
20. Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 33.
21. Ibid., p. 34.
22. Conze, Buddhist Studies, vol. 1,p. 77, quoted by Gudmunsen, in Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 34.
23. Wittgenstein, Investigation, #293.
24. Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 34.
25. Wittgenstein, Investigation, #295 quoted in Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 35.
26. Wittgenstein, Investigations, #304 quoted in Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 35.
27. Edward Conze, Buddhist Thought in India (Ann Arbor, Michigan:
University of Michigan, 1967), p. 107; hereafter cited as Conze,
Buddhist Thought in India.
28. Ibid., p. 29.
29. Ibid., p. 106.
30. Wittgenstein. Investigations, #246.
31. Ibid., #243.
32. Ibid., #258; see #270.
33. Ibid., p. 293; see p. 207.
34. Gudmunsen. Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 34.
35. Conze, Buddhist Thought in India, p. 178.
36. Bhikshu Sangharakshita, A Survey of Buddhism (Boulder, Colorado:
Shambhala, 1980), p. 212; hereafter cited as Sangharakshita, Survey of
37. Ibid., p. 213.
38. Ibid., p. 214.
39. Conze, Buddhist Thought in India, p. 202.
40. Gudmunsen, Wittgenstein and Buddhism, p. 36.
41. Ives Waldo, "Naagaarjuna and Analytic Philosophy, "Philosophy East and West 25, no. 3 (July
1975): 281-290 (hereafter cited as Waldo, "NAP"); and "Naagaarjuna
and Analytic Philosophy, II, "Philosophy East and West 28, no. 3 (July
1978): 287-298 (hereafter cited as Waldo, "NAP II").
42. Waldo, "NAP," p. 283.
45. Ibid., p. 284.
46. Ibid., p. 286.
47. Waldo, "NAP II," p. 289.
48. Ibid., pp. 292-293.
49. Ibid., p. 296.
50. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-Philosophicus, trans. D. F.
Pears and B. F. McGuinness (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961),
2.0124 and 5.524; hereafter cited as Wittgenstein, Tractatus.
51. Ibid., 4.002.
52. Ibid., 3.25.
53. John Passmore, "Logical Positivism," in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards, vol. 5, p. 52.
54. Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 4.024.
55. Wittgenstein, Investigations, #59 and 60.
56. See ibid., #33, 56, 81.
57. Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 2.021.
58. Wittgenstein, Investigations, #49.
59. Ibid., #81.
60. Ibid., #98 and #106.
61. Conze, Buddhist Studies, vol. 1, p. 144.
62. Trans. Robinson, in Early Maadhyamika, p. 40. The next three
theses will be from Streng's translation in Emptiness and the fifth will
be from Robinson, p. 59. The remaining translations are Streng's.
63. Sangharakshita, "The Second Founder of Buddhism," in a Survey of Buddhism, p. 301.
64. Hakuju Ui, quoted by Yoshinori Takeuchi, in The Heart of
Buddhism, trans. James W. Heisig (New York: Crossroad, 1983), p. 68.
65. From the Vandana, reckoned as the first two verses of MK by Robinson; see Robinson, Early Maadhyamika, p. 40.
66. Robinson, Early Maadhyamika, p. 60. Since Naagaarjuna is counted as a Pure Land Patriarch, the Nembutsu may serve as well.
67. T. R. V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (London:
George Allen and Unwin, 1960), p. 244. Also David J. Kalupahana,
Buddhist Philosophy (Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press,
1976), p. 135.
68. Waldo, "NAP." p. 284, and "NAP II," p. 288. Waldo attributes this only to the Praasa^nghika interpretation.
69. See Wittgenstein, Tractatus 2.172 and 2.173.
70. Ibid., 6.42.
71. Ibid., 6.522.
72. Ibid., 7.
73. See L. Stafford Betty, "Naagaarjuna's Masterpiece-Logical,
Mystical, Both, or Neither?" Philosophy East and West 33, no. I (January
1983): 134. Also, the reborn individual is "neither the same nor
another" (K. N. Jayatilleke, The Message of the Buddha (New York: Free
Press, 1974), p. 138). In "Is Naagaarjuna a Philosopher? Response to
Professor Loy." Philosophy East and West 34, no. 4 (October 1984). Betty
says that Naagaarjuna is not a philosopher since in the Kaarikaas he
does not explain "how illusion can lead to reality." But this is like
saying that in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein was not a philosopher since
he failed to explain how one can speak about the unsayable. The
Kaarikaas and the Tractatus may have significant shortcomings, but then
so did Plato.
74. Peter Gregory, "Chinese Buddhist Hermeneutics: The Case of
Hua-yen," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 51 (1983):