Among many noteworthy terms in Buddhism, prapañca (Pāli: papañca) is no doubt one of the most important keywords which requires a detailed examination in the contexts of its usage. In Nāgārjuna’s works such as the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (MMK) and others, prapañca and its derivatives are also crucial in understanding the author’s discussion of emptiness (śūnyatā) mostly found in the context of how to remove defilements (kleśa). According to its usage in the MMK, early Yogācāra treatises such as the Yogācārabhūmi, Asaṅga and Vasubandhu’s works, and the treatises by Bhāviveka and later Mādhyamikas, prapañca is closely related to human usage of terms and concepts which themselves are further rooted in mental, analytical, discursive, and proliferating activities.1 The word prapañca, therefore, is mostly used to refer to (1) the mental activity of “conceptualization”, to (2) the objects of mental activity, i.e., “conceptualized objects” or “conceptualized world”, or to (3) the instruments of mental activity, i.e., “concepts” or “terms”. It also is important to note that while there is a slight difference between Nāgārjuna’s and early Yogācāras’ understandings of both prapañca and vikalpa, 2 both Nāgārjuna and the early Yogācāras regarded prapañca as the root cause of defilements (kleśa). In contrast, they understood the quiescence of prapañca to be one of the characteristics of nirvāṇa, which they equated with tattva “[identical] reality” or tathatā “suchness”. With this background information in mind, this paper will focus on Nāgārjuna’s usage of prapañca in the MMK, with special consideration to his commentators’ understandings of terms containing prapañca and its derivatives, such as prapañcayati and prapañcita.
Preamble 1 1. Usage of prapañca in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 2 2. Commentators’ Understandings of prapañca 3 3. Concluding Remark 6 Abbreviations 8 References 8