Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Papadesana Mean?

Papadesana is a Sanskrit term that translates as “the revealing of wrongdoing”; with papa, meaning “evil” or “sin” and desana, meaning “lesson” or “discourse.” It is the confession of sins, appraising of one’s shortcomings and the resolution to overcome them.

Unlike confession in Catholicism, papadesana is not an appeal for absolution or a sacrament, nor does anyone act as a confessor. For Buddhist monks, there is an official occasion for confession, but no such ceremony exists for laypeople.


Yogapedia Explains Papadesana

In Buddhism, confession serves as an aid for spiritual and psychological health. It is believed that acknowledging shame and remorse frees the guilty conscience, thereby removing a barrier to spiritual progress. It is also thought that declaring wrongdoings prevents repetition of the sins.

Papadesana is part of the supreme worship known as anuttara puja, or “seven-fold worship,” which includes:

  • Vandana (obeisance, bowing down) and puja (worship) – paying homage to the Buddha.
  • Sarana-gamana (going for refuge) – committing to the path to enlightenment by seeking “refuge” in the Buddha, dharma or spiritual community.
  • Papadesana (confession of sins).
  • Punyanumodana (rejoicing in merit) – honoring one’s own and others’ positive qualities.
  • Adhyesana (prayer, entreaty) and yacana (supplication) – requesting the assistance of those who are more enlightened.
  • Atmabhavadi-parityagah (surrender) – the declaration of altruism and self-denial.

Some sources separate vandana and puja as distinct steps, while others separate adhyesana and yacana – in each case creating a seven-fold path of worship. The goal is bodhicitta, a mind dedicated to others and to attaining enlightenment. It is similar to the ultimate goal of yoga – enlightenment and unification with the yogi’s highest nature.

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