- Dear Derek, Edward, Gunnar, Piya and friends,
thanks for the interesting discussion. To the common beliefs that
1. the Buddha may have never spoken Pali,
2. the Buddha spoke the Magadhi language.
I would like to add that due to the fact the Buddha spent a good
portion of his time in Magadha, and Kapilavatu was a political ally
of Magadha, Magadhi was the dialect most often used by Him.
However, Magadhi was not the only vernacular the Buddha used. The
Buddha had also learnt the 'religious language' of the Vedas.
Furthermore, He did not set a particular language to be superior
than others. As recorded in the Tipitaka, the Buddha allows his
disciples to preach the Dhamma in the local language.
The Buddha's footsteps covered the entire Northern India and Nepal.
So, it is unlikely that he spoke only one language. Just like it was
impossible to travel across Europe and preached to masses all in one
It is interesting to note that while each sutta records certain
statistics of the meeting, such as the place, time and attendees,
there is no mention of the language used.
My guesses are:
1. The reciter (Ananda) of the suttas did not perceive language as
an issue. It is known to the assembly of the Arhats the Buddhist
attitude towards language usage (as the mean to an end, Zen
saying: "finger pointing the moon"), hence it is not recorded.
2. It is social norm for people to speak in different tongues in
different places. This is especially true as the Buddhist sangha was
not elitist and did not promote the use of the Vedic language. So,
the language used was not much of a concern for the records, as it
is (for academic purpose) today.
--- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Derek wrote:
> If Pali wasn't a lingua franca of northern India, then what
> language did the Buddha speak?
It is sometimes said that the Buddha spoke the Magadhi language. The
trouble is, we have no records of the Magadhi language, so simply
saying "the Buddha spoke Magadhi" may or may not answer your
Two hundred years after the time of the Buddha, yhe emperor Ashoka
(3rd century B.C.) had pillars with edicts on them put up over large
parts of India, and by studying the edicts on these pillars we can
get some idea of the way language varied from place to place. Hence
we can speculate a little about what Magadhi may have looked like.
For example the vocative plural form bhikkhave is thought to be
typically Magadhi. But that's about as far as we can go.
- --- Ong Yong Peng <ypong001@...> skrev:
> However, Magadhi was not the only vernacular the
> Buddha used.
> The Buddha's footsteps covered the entire NorthernThat's my theory as well. Asokas edicts, also, were
> India and Nepal.
> So, it is unlikely that he spoke only one language.
written in different local Prakrits. That was
practical when dealing with texts cut in stone, and
not to be carried around; but the Tipitaka, obviously,
needed some kind of standardized language, so I think
the members of the first council just elected one of
the Prakrits, or perhaps made a new one, without
making a great fuss about it.