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lakṣaṇa


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(Skt., mark).

Term used mainly in Buddhist scholasticism (Abhidharma) to denote the specific identifying attribute or defining characteristic of an entity. As an example, all phemomena (dharma) are said to bear the three ‘marks’ of impermanence (anitya), suffering (duḥkha), and no-self (anātman). In Abhidharma tabulations, various defining characteristics were identified for different phenomena, such as heat as the defining characteristic of fire, or hardness as that of earth. In some Mahāyāna sources the lakṣana of a thing came to be defined as that mental concept (vikalpa) by which one knows, defines, and understands an object which has a particular perceptual form (nimitta), such as being of a particular colour, and so forth.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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