Complexity and Simplicity
Our chosen translation, “simplicity,” for trötral in Tibetan or nishprapancha in Sanskrit, is often rendered by other translators as “freedom from complexities” or “freedom from elaborations” and makes an interesting journey through the three yanas of Buddhist thought.
Prapancha (tröpa in Tibetan) comes from the Sanskrit root pach, which means “to spread out” or “proliferate.” In the early sutra teachings of the hinayana, prapancha is the word used to indicate the tendency of conceptual mind to proliferate or elaborate on the bare perception of the senses.
In the mahayana, it is not prapancha, but its negative, nishprapancha or trötral (nish in Sanskrit and tral in Tibetan are negations), that is emphasized. Particularly in the prasanga madhyamaka school, nishprapancha is said to be the most apt description of the absolute truth: freedom from all conceptual elaborations, all our ideas about what reality is and isn’t.
In the vajrayana, trötral is found as the second of the four yogas of mahamudra. When the nature of thought has been understood, one can rest in a state of awareness undisturbed by the movement of concept. Here especially, the Vidyadhara felt that the more literal “freedom from complexities” did not capture the relaxed feeling of the experience that “simplicity” conveys.