June 22, 2010

Prapañca Release Issue!

The new online quarterly magazine Prapañca: a buddhist journal is out with it’s first summer issue themed “Imperfection.” The issue includes pieces by Scott Mitchell, Erica Shehane, Mushim Ikeda-Nash, Qiana Whitted, Stephen Asma, Gade, Jack Butler Doug McLean and hieronymous—not to mention several other straight-off-the-web contributors to its web gallery.

Admittedly, I was surprised by the choice of Prapañca as the name for a Buddhist journal—but Scott Mitchell addresses this issue head-on in his opening note: “Prapañca refers here to how we use language to describe the world around us — indeed to describe awakening itself. In some Buddhist contexts, prapañca simply refers to the ever-expanding set of language and concepts all rooted in a false idea of the self that tries to make sense of the world. But since it’s rooted in a fundamental delusion, the idea of a permanent self, this language is itself deluded. In other words, because we’re not enlightened, our language is, by definition, deluded. It is imperfect.” He goes on to write:

But does that mean that language, because of its inherent imperfection, cannot be meaningful? Is it not worth using language to describe the world, to describe awakening? After all, what choice have we got? To borrow a metaphor, while we certainly shouldn’t confuse the finger pointing at the moon with the moon itself, we still need to point to the moon. Otherwise, how would we know to look for it?

So prapañca refers to our superficial understanding of the world. Our words are superficial — deluded, imperfect, imprecise — because we’re not enlightened. Just because we’re Buddhists doesn’t mean we’re Buddhas. We’re simply on the path and along the way we’re going to make some mistakes. Using language, using prapañca is one of those mistakes. But it’s all we’ve got. We have to use language in our attempt to transcend language.

The rest of the editor’s note is online here. Although I didn’t take the initiative to submit any work for this issue, you can be sure that I’ll send writing to the editors for their upcoming release in the fall. (Beware Prapañca editors!) You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr too!

Oh, did I mention they also have a blog?

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