Why not bhāvanā = practice?

I don’t think I have often seen bhāvanā translated as practice. It’s generally translated as development.

What are potential reasons why practice would not be a better choice?

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Practice - praxis - means doing, acting

Bhavana has a sense of becoming, bringing into being (bhava). ‘Developing’ captures more of that than practice.

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Yes, I think Javier is right. Another factor is that “practice” is already used for patipajjati.

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And I thought bhavana meant meditation! I have so much to learn…

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Indeed, thank you!

It’s not necessarily a wrong translation. Certain types of bhavana are done only in meditation, like samadhi or jhana for example. It just doesn’t fit all the contexts in which bhavana is used.

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Yes, I was wondering about the relationship to “bhava”. It seems like “bhavana” is more deliberate than “bhava?” Does bhavana = bhava + Right Effort?

It’s not necessarily positive, one could bhavana wrong views too. It’s just a general term.

Also, because of its organic sense I also like cultivation as another possible translation. I always get the sense of a field, seeds, plants and so on when the Buddha is discussing mental development.

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Yes, I see what you mean. Hence the need for Right Effort.