This essay is concerned with the work of Dōgen (道元, 1200-1253) regarding the role of silence and ambiguity within the ontology and limits of language. As a comparative paper the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Nishida Kitarō are drawn upon. The primary question posed is: what is the relation between “true dharma-eye” (advocated in Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō (正法眼蔵)) and language? There is an apparent contradiction regarding Dōgen’s treatment of language. In one sense the dharma-eye cannot be expressed in words, therefore it seems best to abandon language. In another, equally compelling sense language is embraced, and so facilitates dharma-eye. The true dharma-eye seems to be beyond language while not completely excluded from it. Given the importance of a fecund ontological ambiguity between silence and speaking this ostensible condtradiction regarding language dissolves into the practice of zazen as silent expression.
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