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Of all the cognitive means recognized in Indian philosophical schools, perception is considered the primary. Gautama, the philosopher who authored Nyāyasūtra—the first aphoristic collection of the Nyāya tenets—defines perception as the principal cause of true perceptual cognition, that is, of a cognition generated out of sense-object contact, non-deviating, non-vacillating, and nonverbal. Of these, the adjective “nonverbal”—the translated version of the Sanskrit term “avyapadeśyam”—ignited a serious debate that was argued for about a millennium. This article tries to trace different interpretations of the term in the classical Nyāya commentarial literature, especially in the writings of Vātsyāyana, Uddyotakara, Vācaspati Miśra, and Jayanta Bhaṭṭa. It also attempts to show briefly how the contributions of these philosophers in the debate were influenced by the prevalent Indian philosophical scenario.
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