Re: Pali language generator?
- Dear Jim and Mahinda;
Thank you so much for all these interesting tidbits that I will definitely
follow up on. Pali literature as well as Burmese literature has become
richer for me.
The complicated system of commentaries supporting, explicating, and
empowering the main canon of texts, is certainly not something that one
sees when one initially looks at and studies Theravadan Buddhism, at
least not initially. Commentaries certainly seem to be at the root of
I wrote out a summary, because your comments make a nice to-do list:
1. The English translation (by Burlingame) of the Dhammapada
commentary leaves out the word-by-word commentary on the verses
as is also the case with Cowell's Jaataka translation except for the
occasional footnote. [Thanks, I thought the narratives were the whole
2. You might try the English introductions to the commentaries published
by PTS like the one for the Diighanikaayat. t.hakathaa- pura.na.tiikaa for
a general introduction to .tiikaa-s. The Visuddhimagga is a commentary
and ~Naa.namoli' s translation will give you some idea of what a
commentary does. [That's interesting because my general impression of
the Visuddhimagga was that it served as a sort of meditation manual. I
guess commentaries have multiple functions. I found this to be the case
with Abhidhamma texts recently when I learned that they also had
astronomy and cosmology built into them also.]
3. "...they [commentaries] do play a very important linguistic role in
explaining the meaning of words and phrases in the Tipi.taka. And
the .tiikaa-s explain the a.t.thakathaa- s. Instead of two layers of
commentaries, there can also be three layers as with the
Abhidhammapi. taka: a.t.thakathaa, muula.tiikaa, and anu.tiikaa. The
amount of material available in Pali is enormous but most of it
remain untranslated into English."
[I noticed that Hinuber in his manual of Pali literature even classifies
Burmese Nissaya (phrase by phrase glosses) as commentaries, and
there are even Thai specific commentaries listed too, so maybe a
commentary tradition defines a monastic intellectual lineage, branching
off from the main cannonical Mahavira Theravadin lineage, BTW Peter
Skilling's paper "Geographies of Intertextuality: Buddhist Literature in
Pre-Modern Siam, Aseanie, 19, Juin 2007, pp. 91-112, talks about this
sort of thing in Southeast Asia]
Mahinda's comments on commentaries:
1. The "word by word" commentary on the verses of Dhammapada has
been translated by Carter and Palihawadana in a work on that text
published by the Oxford University Press in 1987. It gives the reader an
idea of the technique employed by the commentaries in explaining a text.
2. The commentaries bear considerable similarity to the extremely
numerous vyaakhyaas in Sanskrit literature.Dhammapa la the
commetator who is next in importance to Buddhaghosa, was an
extremely erudite Sanskrit scholar.
3. BTW the a.t.thakathaas are not "word by word" commentariess. They
comment only on words and concepts that they think are difficult or that
deserve detailed explanation.
4. Some of the modern writers on the A.t.thkathaa texts are E.W.
Adikaram, Sodo Mori, Toshichi Endo and Friedgard Lottomoser.
Thanks you very much for these notes.
With metta, Jon