The notion of definition or defining characteristics (Skt. lakṣaṇa; Wyl. mtshan nyid) is a very important one in Buddhist philosophy, so much so that the sutra vehicle is often known as the vehicle of characteristics. A correct and useful definition must avoid the three faults of being too narrow, too broad or impossible.
For example, in the case of a vase:
- the definition is something like "narrow-necked, bulbous object capable of holding water"
- the name (or definiendum) is "vase"
- and the basis of definition (or illustration) is the particular instance, such as the green vase on your table.