Conceptual elaboration

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Conceptual elaboration (Skt. prapañca; Pali papañca; Tib. སྤྲོས་པ་, tröpa, Wyl. spros pa) —

Ordinary mentation (aka 'mental activity') is bound up with expectations, judgements, and desires. The Buddhist philosophical term used for describing the state of ordinary mentation is prapañca in Sanskrit. It literally means ‘fabrication,’ usually translated as ‘conceptual proliferation’ or 'conceptual elaboration' [see Samyutta Nikāya, IV, 72]. We don't simply apprehend an object. Rather, we apprehend it as the locus of a multiplicity of associations: in seeing a tree we perceive an entity made of trunk, branches, and foliage but also something that can provide shade and lumber. In perception we are ordinarily assailed by a stream of conceptualizing tendencies, which have their ultimate source in linguistic conventions and categorizing practices. These conceptualizing tendencies overwhelm and distort the perceptual experience.[1]


  1. Coseru, Christian, "Mind in Indian Buddhist Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.

Alternative Translations

  • mental constructs (Thomas Doctor)
  • conceptual proliferation (Nyanatiloka Mahathera)

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