Semiotics for Beginners

This essay by Daniel Chandler is good introduction to semiotics and a good way to help readers better understand how we are using the term on this site. I highly recommend the essay for anyone interested in thought, culture, language, or psychology. But it will be especially useful for Buddhists because having some idea of what semiotics is all about can be a great help in understanding many of the teachings of the Buddha. The deep significance of fundamental Buddhist concepts like emptiness and dependent origination may become clearer and more useful when viewed from a semiotic point of view.

Buddhists might also take note that semiotics is difficult to define and/or get a grasp of and in this resembles some of the more abstract or philosophical teachings of the Buddhist tradition, particularly the work of Nagarjuna. Semiotics is the study of meaning, how we communicate it and what it is. Buddhism, one might say, is the study of how meaning pertains to the self, or the illusion of the self, and how our perceptions of the world around us are built out of a welter of ever-changing codependent meanings–semiotics.

We use the term semiotics on this site because it greatly facilitates our discussions of FIML practice. Terms like semiotics, emptiness, dependent origination, and so on were not created to make subjects obscure but rather to clarify them.

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