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The Eight Great Noble Thoughts and Papanca (proliferation) and Nippapanca (non-proliferation) by Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili Jacquetta Gomes

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The Eight Great Noble Thoughts and Papanca (proliferation) and Nippapanca (non-proliferation)
By Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili Jacquetta Gomes BGKT Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) England UK
Updated 12th September 2015

“Mankind delights in the diffuseness of the world, the Perfect Ones are free from such diffuseness.” ::(The Dhammapada Verse 254)
(Source: Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines. Nyanatiloka Maha Thera)

Attha-maha-purisa Vitakka

1. Appicchassayam Dhammo, nayam Dhammo mahicchassa.
2. Santutthassayam Dhammo, nayam Dhammo asantutthassa.
3. Pavivittassayam Dhammo, nayam Dhammo Sanghanikaramassa.
4. Araddhaviriyassayam Dhammo, nayam Dhammo kusitassa.
5. Upatthitasatissayam Dhammo, nayam Dhammo mutthassatissa.
6. Samahitassayam Dhammo, nayam Dhammo asamahitassa.
7. Pannavato ayam Dhammo, nayam Dhammo duppannassa.
8. Nippapancaramassayam Dhammo nippapancaratino nayam Dhammo papancaramassa papancaratino.

Eight Great Noble Thoughts

1. This Dhamma is for reducing desire, not for increasing desire.
2. This Dhamma is for increasing contentment, not for increasing discontentment.
3. This Dhamma is for cultivating seclusion, not for becoming sociable.
4. This Dhamma is for becoming energetic, not for becoming lazy.
5. This Dhamma is for developing mindfulness, not developing unmindfulness.
6. This Dhamma is for developing composure, not for making restlessness.
7. This Dhamma is for increasing wisdom, not for decreasing wisdom.
8. This Dhamma is for delighting in freedom from impediments, not for delighting in impediment.

(Source: Bhavana Vandana: Devotions for Meditation. Compiled by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Bhavana Society, USA, Revised Edition, 2008, pages 68-69.) In the Anuruddha Mahavitakka Sutta in the Anguttara Nikaya Book of Eights, Venerable Anuruddha, ‘the master of the divine eye’, is in silent contemplation. His ruminations are being monitored from a distance by the Buddha. These seven thoughts occur to Venerable Anuruddha.

At this time, Venerable Anuruddha had not yet attained enlightenment. The Buddha then projects himself and after saying Sadhu, Sadhu, Anuruddha (Well done, or it is good, Anuruddha), asks Anuruddha to add an eighth thought: This Dhamma is for the Nippapanca, not for the Pappanca. Pappanca means proliferation. Diffusion, the ‘more and more and more’ of the world. Nippapanca is non-proliferation. It is a synonym for Nibbana. It is Vijja, supreme knowledge (opposite of Avijja, Ignorance). Thus, the seven thoughts of Venerable Anuruddha became the Eight Thoughts of the Great Man.

The seven thoughts that occurred to Anuruddha, along with their correspondence to The Eightfold Path, the Five Faculties and Five Powers, are given below:

1. This Dhamma is for one of few wants, not for one who wants much.
2. This Dhamma is for the contented, not for the discontented.
3. This Dhamma is for the secluded, not for one who loves company.

These three correspond to Sila (Morality) for a person who has left home and ordained in order to attain enlightenment. For lay people Sila is Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood of the Noble Eightfold Path. It ties in with Saddha, (faith in the Buddha) vis-à-vis the Five Spiritual Faculties and the Five Powers.

4. This Dhamma is for the energetic, not for one who lacks energy.
Corresponds to Right Effort (Samma Vayama) of the Eightfold Path and Viriya of the Spiritual Faculties and Spiritual Powers.

5. This Dhamma is for the mindful, not for one who lacks mindfulness.
Corresponds to Right Mindfulness (Samma Sati of the Eightfold Path and Sati of the Five Spiritual Faculties and Five Powers.

6. This Dhamma is for the concentrated, not for the unconcentrated.
Corresponds to Samma Samadhi of the Eightfold Path and Samadhi of the other two as above.

7. This Dhamma is for the wise, not for the unwise.
Corresponds to Right Understanding (Samma Ditthi) and Right Thought (Samma Samkappa) of the Eightfold Path, and Panna (wisdom) of the other two.

The Five Spiritual Faculties

The normal mind is driven by the three unwholesome roots of Lobha (Greed), Dosa (Hate), and Moha (Delusion). When one embarks on the teachings of the Buddha, these three unwholesome roots are gradually replaced by the Five Spiritual Faculties (Panc’indriya). At this stage, the practitioner can still be influenced and shaken by another person from some other teaching who might argue, that the Buddha was not really enlightened (the first of the Spiritual Faculties is faith in the enlightenment of the Buddha).

The Five Spiritual Powers

When one attains to Stream Entry (Sotapanna), these Five Spiritual Faculties become the Five Spiritual Powers. Then these five cannot be shaken by their opposites. At Stream Entry, the first three of the Ten Fetters (Dasa Samyojana) drop away. The first three fetters are Sakkaya Ditthi (personality belief), Vicikiccha (sceptical doubt), and Silabbata Paramasa (belief in wrongful rites and rituals).


Bodhicaris who have taken the Bodhicari Precepts chant the Attha-maha-purisa Vitakka as part of their regular chanting.

Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines by Nyanatiloka Maha Thera

Venerable Nyanatiloka Maha Thera explains papanca in his Buddhist Dictionary as:

papanca: (Sanskrit prapanca): In doctrinal usage, it signifies the expansion, differentiation, 'diffuseness' or 'manifoldness' of the world; and it may also refer to the 'phenomenal world' in general, and to the mental attitude of 'worldliness'. In A. IV, 173, it is said: "As far as the field of sixfold sense-impression extends, so far reaches the world of diffuseness (or the phenomenal world; papancassa gati); as far as the world of diffuseness extends, so far extends the field of sixfold sense-impression. Through the complete fading away and cessation of the field of sixfold sense-impression, there comes about the cessation and the coming-to-rest of the world of diffuseness (papanca-nirodho papanca-vupasamo)." The opposite term nippapanca is a name for Nibbana (S. LIII), in the sense of 'freedom from samsaric diffuseness'. - Dhp. 254: "Mankind delights in the diffuseness of the world, the Perfect Ones are free from such diffuseness" (papancabhirata paja, nippapanca tathagata). - The 8th of the 'thoughts of a great man' (maha-purisa-vitakka; A. VIII, 30) has: "This Dhamma is for one who delights in non-diffuseness (the unworldly, Nibbana); it is not for him who delights in worldliness (papanca)." - For the psychological sense of 'differentiation', see M. 18 (Madhupindika Sutta): "Whatever man conceives (vitakketi) that he differentiates (papanceti); and what he differentiates, by reason thereof ideas and considerations of differentiation (Papanca-sanna-sankha) arise in him." On this text and the term papanca, see Dr. Kurt Schmidt in German Buddhist Writers (Wheel 74/75) p. 61ff. - See D. 21 (Sakka's Quest; Wheel 10, p. 12ff).

In the commentaries, we often find a threefold classification tanha, ditthi-, mana-papanca, which probably means the world's diffuseness created hy craving, false views and conceit. - See M. 123; A. IV, 173; A. VI, 14, Sn. 530, 874, 916.

Nanananda Bhikkhu, in Concept and Reality: An Essay on Papanca and Papanca-sanna-sankha (Kandy 1971, Buddhist Publication Society), suggests that the term refers to man's "tendency towards proliferation in the realm of concepts" and proposes a rendering by "conceptual proliferation," which appears convincing in psychological context, e.g. in two of the texts quoted above, A. IV, 173 and M. 18. - The threefold classification of papanca, by way of craving, false views and conceit, is explained by the author as three aspects, or instances, of the foremost of delusive conceptualisations, the ego-concept.”



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By Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili Jacquetta Gomes BGKT Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) England UK
Updated 12th September 2015