"Sanketa vacanam saccam - loka sammuti karanam
Paramattha vacanam saccam - dhammanam tathalakkhanam"

According to the above quote, all the words (cenventional truth) made by living beings using any language considered as truth because they are enacted by living beings.

We use words to mention ultimate truth. For example when we say "Nibbana", the real dhamma or actual Nibbana exists but the word "Nibbana" has been enacted. The actual dhamma and the word used to refer it are two different things. The word may not contain the actual characteristics inherent to Nibbana. I suppose Shakyamuni Tatagata Lord Buddha used many words to explain ultimate truth (Citta, Cetasika, Rupa, Nibbana) because of this reason.

So my question is: Does the word "Nibbana" (as well as the other words used to mention ultimate truth) belong to the conventional truth while only the actual dhamma belong to the ultimate truth?

  • I'd say yes, words are always conventional and cannot describe truth. We can follow Lao Tsu's advice and speak in a seemingly contradictory way but while this may allow us to speak rigorously our expressions are still conventional. It would remains the case that truth is beyond conceptual or linguistic fabrication. We can say, with Heraclitus, 'we are and are-not' but this 'two truth' approach is still in the realm of convention and not an expression of ultimate truth. So I'd say the answer to your question is yes.
    – user14119
    Dec 28, 2018 at 15:48
  • There is both a conventional truth/meaning and a higher truth/meaning to every key word in Buddha Dhamma. Nirvana is the incorrect usage of the word. The true word is Nibbana. It’s higher meaning is clipping at the roots the three Bana’s - rāga, dōsa, Mōha. “rāgakkhayo Nibbānan, dōsakkhayō Nibbānan, Mōhakkhayō Nibbānan” Thus cleansing our minds is the only way to Nibbāna. Dec 31, 2018 at 5:19

1 Answer 1


All words are like sign posts. The meaning of it is an idea that is in the mind of the person who is speaking it. And the communication will take place if the person who hears it has assigned the same meaning to the word in his/her mind.

Therefore the shared meaning has to be previously agreed upon or communication will not be very effective. As a result it is extremely difficult to communicate an idea (ex: enlightenment/dhamma) when the receiver has no data points to relate to. They become merely words.

So yes, the words don't have the properties of what they refer to. For example Alan Watts once said that "You can't get wet from the word 'water.'".


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