Tuesday, June 29

About Papañca


Majjhima Nikaya 18, Madhupindika Sutta, The Ball of Honey. Translated by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

This is probably *the* sutta on the subject of papañca, mental proliferation, the subject and modus operandi of this blog. In his introduction to the sutta, Ven. Thanissaro writes:


Translating papañca: As one writer has noted, the word papañca has had a wide variety of meanings in Indian thought, with only one constant: in Buddhist philosophical discourse it carries negative connotations, usually of falsification and distortion. The word itself is derived from a root that means diffuseness, spreading, proliferating. The Pali Commentaries define papañca as covering three types of thought: craving, conceit, and views. They also note that it functions to slow the mind down in its escape from samsara. And, as our analysis has shown, it functions to create baneful distinctions and unnecessary issues. For these reasons, I have chosen to render the word as "complication," although some of the following alternatives might be acceptable as well: self-reflexive thinking, reification, proliferation, exaggeration, elaboration, distortion.


And from the sutta itself, Ven. Mahakaccana explained:

"Dependent on eye & forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one complicates. Based on what a person complicates, the perceptions & categories of complication assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future forms cognizable via the eye.

"Dependent on ear & sounds, ear-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on nose & aromas, nose-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on tongue & flavors, tongue-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on body & tactile sensations, body-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on intellect & ideas, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one complicates. Based on what a person complicates, the perceptions & categories of complication assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future ideas cognizable via the intellect.

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