Theses Doctoral

Metaphor (Upacâra) in Early Yogâcâra Thought and Its Intellectual Context

Tzohar, Roy

The dissertation addresses a lacuna in current scholarship concerning the role and meaning of figurative language in Indian Buddhist Mahayana philosophical discourse. Attempting to fill part of it, the dissertation explicates and reconstructs an early Yogacara Buddhist philosophical discourse on metaphor (upacAara, nye bar `dogs pa) and grounds it in a broader intellectual context, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist. This analysis uncovers an Indian philosophical intertextual conversation about metaphor that reaches across sectarian lines, and since it takes place before the height of systematized alamkara-sastra in India, stands to illuminate what may be described as one of the philosophical roots of Sanskrit poetics.
The dissertation proceeds by providing translations and analysis of key sections on upacara from a variety of Indian philosophical sources. The first part (chapters I-II) examines the concept's semantic and conceptual scope in the theories of meaning and fundamental works of the Nyaya and Mimamsa schools, and in the school of grammatical analysis (focusing on Bhartrhari's Vakyapadiya). The second part (chapters III-V) examines the understanding of the term in some Yogacara sastras and sutras against the background of their broader Buddhist context. It looks at such texts as the Tattvarthapatalam chapter of the Bodhisattvabhumi and the Viniscayasamgrahani, both ascribed to Asanga; Vasubandhu's Trimsika and its commentary by Sthiramati; the Abhidharmakosabhasya and its commentary by Sthiramati; Dignaga's Pramanasamuccaya; and the Lankavatarasutra.
This analysis reveals a Yogacara account of upacara that, because of its underlying referential mechanism, understands the term above all as diagnostic of a breach between language and reality and therefore as marking the demise of a correspondence theory of truth. Moreover, it is shown that some Yogacara thinkers developed this theme into a sophisticated theory of meaning that enabled the school both to insist on this lack of grounding for language and, at the same time, to uphold a hierarchy of truth claims, as required by the school's philosophical soteriological discourse. It is argued that a common feature of all these accounts is their understanding of metaphors not just as content carriers (that is, as informative) but also as performative - actively manifesting and invoking the groundlessness of language through the fact of their proliferation.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Proudfoot, Wayne Lee
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 8, 2017