What Is “Shenpa”?

“Shenpa” is a Tibetan Buddhist term. To figure out where this might fit with Zen teachings, I looked into the original early Buddist word in Pali. It’s “Upadana.”

Upadana is typically translated into English as attachment or clinging. However, originally it meant “fuel, material cause, substrate that is the source and means for keeping an active process energized,” which suggests that “attachment” and “clinging” might not be fully what the early Buddhists were talking about.

Pema Chödrön, who has popularized the term “Shenpa,” usually translates it as hooked.

Other words that might resonate with you are “reactive” or “triggered.” However, please note, “shenpa” isn’t just about one’s initial reaction. It also encompasses aftermath mindstates (often more subtle) where there’s still disconnection.