Conceptual proliferation

In Buddhism, conceptual proliferation (or mental proliferation) (Pali: papañca, Template:Lang-skt, Chinese: 戲論) refers to conceptualization of the world through the use of ever-expanding language and concepts.[1] The translation of papañca as conceptual proliferation was first made by Katukurunde Nyanananda Thera in his research monograph Concept and Reality.[2] It is a useful concept,[according to whom?] not only in Buddhism but in many other fields (see below).

It is intended to elucidate reality, although it has the unexpected result of blotting out or reducing direct nonverbal sensory perception. In part, this is due to each person's limitation of how many things they can pay attention to at the same time. A person who can only attend to two things at once, may be able to receive a direct sensory picture of the tree while at the same time saying "The apple tree in the garden," but the picture will not be as complete.[3][4]

The term is mentioned in a variety of suttas in the Pali canon, such as the Madhupindika Sutta (MN 18), and is mentioned in Mahayana Buddhism as well. When referencing the concepts derived from this process, such concepts are referred to in Pali as papañca-saññā-sankhā.


Nippapañca is the diametrical opposition of papañca.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Nanananda 1997, p. 4
  2. ^ Nanananda 1997
  3. ^ The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind. Wisdom, 2006
  4. ^


  • Ñāṇananda, Bhikkhu Kaṭukurunde (2012) [1971], Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought - An Essay on Papañca and Papañca-Saññâ-Saṅkhāra (PDF), Buddhist Publication Society, ISBN 955-24-0136-4CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Ñāṇamoli, Bhikkhu Ninoslav. "Papañca-Saññā-Sankhā - An Essay". Retrieved 15 October 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External linksEdit