prapancha

Prapancha.

A wonderful Sanscrit word I got from Rev. Mas Kodani when we were both much younger. He defined it as “many words that say nothing.” He interpreted prapancha into English as “bullshit.”

I now interpret prapancha as any words at all, in the sense that we cannot capture life in concepts or description, be they simple and crude or intricate and elegant. Even our most eloquent words serve only as pointers, as the finger pointing to the moon. My dog will only see my finger (unless I’m pointing to a gopher mound). A friend might see the tree in the garden and solve a koan I did not pose.

Who will see the sunlight reflected by the dust on Earth’s rocky satellite and experience what I do? Perhaps only me. Yet we have a conversation, tossing words and gestures to each other from our separate bodies. We make a community.

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writing it down, when it comes to mind

I’ve taken my own advice, or the advice of many authors that I have also found true myself, and jumped out of bed to type these words. If left for the morning these words would have fled in the night, either floated away like motes of dust or soaked into the hardwood floor like evanescent moisture.

The musings of Ray Bradbury and Steven King tell the tale, yet I need to say it for myself. The writing life and my motivation for pursuing it are both more mysterious than any suspenseful story I will write or read. Why is perhaps a ridiculous question – or perhaps the most fundamental: because I feel a craving, a persistent desire. How is a question I pursue in the hundred or so books on writing I have purchased, borrowed, consumed, and in as many workshops, seminars, conferences, and meetings of writing groups and associations. Where and when: wherever I am and whenever my subconscious sprouts with the product of my reading, sensing, and feeling: my seeds, fertilizer, compost, and earnest turning of the soil.

I have my old copy of Elements of Style. I have my recent copy of On Writing. I stir in the subconscious priming lessons of How to Write While You Sleep. And I prepare to drop off into the little death, when epiphany roils my mind and hence my body. So I “pen” these words, which say nothing and therefore are prapancha. Which is the old Buddhist word for bullshit.

The English word is also apt. Bullshit is fertilizer. Nature does not have “trash.” Everything gets recycled. So I produce my verbal recyclables and organic worm poop and hope they provide myself and other readers with raw materials for new designs, compost for new growth, some fodder for creativity.

Good night.