Knowledge that is based on language alone, independent of any external object, is conceptualization.
“Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words!” Liza Doolittle exclaims these infamous words in Lerner and Loewe’s adaptation of Pygmalion. I LOOOOVE words, in fact one of my co-workers and I used to muddle over what words were super great and descriptive, so this Sutra, at first, really challenged me.
Words are just words. They are man made constructs. They are not tangible things. Until we add a tangible experience, event, or thing to them they truly are just concepts. Take phrases like:
- love is patient
- beauty is in the eye of the beholder
- God is love
- Devil’s Advocate
All of these are simply phrases, but have significant meaning to many of us. We cannot see ‘love’ ‘God’ ‘the Devil’ ‘beauty’ ‘an advocate’ but we assign pictures/thoughts to these phrases and make them mean something.
Many of our ideas, beliefs and judgements are based off of the media, books and conversations we have with others. If you’ve ever heard someone say ‘you know what they say’ you’ve heard someone bring an imaginary army to the conversation to back up what they are talking about. But who are “THEY” ?
Now conceptualization of language is not a bad thing, it helps us communicate complex thoughts. Conceptualization is not misperception either. We do know what love feels like (well at least, I really hope you do), we can quantify love being patient in people and experiences. What this Sutra is asking us to examine is where we conceptualize words without assigning a meaning or experience to them that we have had.
Before you accept hearsay or what ‘they’ say as truth, back it up with experience or at least authoritative testimony (building off of Sutra 1.6 and 1.7).