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Fwd: Language of the Buddha

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  • Ong Yong Peng
    Dear Michael and friends, below are some points raised by Michael, who has given me the consent to forward it to the group, many of which I believe are
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 11, 2004
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      Dear Michael and friends,

      below are some points raised by Michael, who has given me the consent
      to forward it to the group, many of which I believe are valuable
      additions to our discussion.

      metta,
      Yong Peng


      --- Michael Olds wrote:

      I have been reading with dismay some of the comments concerning the
      language spoken by the Buddha. Perhaps it is only difficulty with
      subtle concepts in English, but some of the replies border on
      statements about the writer's clarvoyance...ie. statements that "The
      Buddha spoke..." Rather than "Evidence is that the Buddha spoke..." or,
      "The current theory is....", etc.

      Not trying to pick a fight here, please! (Sariputta says: This Dhamma
      is for the precise, not for the diffuse; I'm just advocating
      precision.) I have another theory which seems just as reasonable and is
      almost never mentioned, although it is the one held by Buddhaghosa and
      others, so I am not alone, although I did arrive at the notion on my
      own. I think at the least it needs to be allowed for as a possibility
      in one's speculation about this matter.

      That notion is that "Pali" was never a language proper at all (but it
      was also not an artificial language). It was a selection of words from
      the languages current at the time. That selection was of those words
      whose roots were the oldest, so that Pali actually represents a
      language that antedates such languages as Maghadi.

      Another way this is sometimes stated is that "Pali" was the father
      tongue, the DNA of language, essentially a (if not the) root of all
      language.

      The intent was communication. The choice of words being such that they
      would be hearable by all beings, across all cultures, across time, and
      across all states of consciousness.

      I use as an example of the method the idea of communicating today to
      all English speakers. We have a choice of 'dialects'. Someone
      interested in communicating a Buddhist notion, say, for example,
      'dukkha', to all these language groups would choose a word that was
      common to all of them. That choice would almost certainly fall on the
      oldest words in English. So in such a case one would not use 'angst';
      or 'anguish' which do not go to the roots of English, and are 'current'
      only among certain classes of English language speakers. One would need
      to use a word like 'pain', or my 'shit'.

      Following this, it would be reasonable to say that the Buddha spoke
      'Pali', where 'Pali' represented those words/terms used when teaching
      Dhamma.

      The issue concerning allowing the Dhamma to be taught in other
      languages is also a matter that is not as settled as some of the
      statements would indicate. To the best of my understanding what was
      really intended by the instruction was that one should neither
      disrespect another's language (by insisting on the use of Pali) nor
      extole Pali, and one should not disrespect the Pali (by simply using
      the other language). It was not a matter of condoning the teaching of
      the Dhamma in other languages. What the instruction says is that one
      should approach someone who uses a certain term for a thing (the
      example is 'bowl') and when discussing Dhamma one should strive to
      educate them to the Pali term: 'You use the term 'bowl'; in Pali we
      call that a 'patta'. See: MN 3. 139. The Aranavibhanga Sutta


      ========================
      My Translation (Remember! This is in the context of a discussion of not
      taking sides, or non-bias.) Very Free!!!:

      51. In different areas of the country, in different social classes, and
      across Time, a patta has come to be known as a bowl, a platter, a
      plate, a tin, a cup, a trencher, a saucer, a dish, a vessel, a pan, a
      pot, a mug, a basin, china, and so forth.

      52. One denegrates the local idiom and adheres rigidly only to what is
      accceptable speech in certain circles by saying: "This is a patta, (or
      a bowl, a platter, a plate, a tin, a cup, a trencher, a saucer, a dish,
      a vessel, a pan, a pot, a mug, a basin, and so forth). This and this
      alone is the proper word for this, all other words for this are
      incorrect."

      53. One does not denegrate the local idiom or adhere rigidly only to
      what is acceptable speech in certain circles saying: "This which here
      is called a patta, those there call a bowl (or a platter, a plate, a
      tin, a cup, a trencher, a saucer, a dish, a vessel, a pan, a pot, a
      mug, a basin, and so forth), so when the word "bowl (or platter, or
      plate, or tin, or cup, or trencher, or saucer, or dish, or vessel, or
      pan, or pot, or mug, or basin, and so forth) is used you should
      understand the meaning to be "patta".

      The actual statement can be read: "Use ONLY the words I have used..."
      meaning the exact words, not 'Pali' or 'Magadhi', but the individual
      words. Use these when examining Dhamma. When discussing Dhamma with
      those who do not understand the Pali, use their language and translate
      back into Pali.

      {'certain circles' here meaning those teaching the Dhamma}

      -------------------------
      Bhk. Nanamoli/Bodhi:

      "One should not insist on local language, and one should not override
      normal usage.' So it was said. And with reference to what was this
      said?

      "How, bhikkhus, does there come to be insistence onlocal language and
      overriding of normal usage? Here, bhikkhus, in different localities
      they call the same thing a 'dish' [paati] [235 PTS] a 'bowl' [patta], a
      'vessel' [vittha], a 'saucer' [seraava], a 'pan' [dhaaropa], a 'pot'
      [po.na], a 'mug'[hana] or a 'basin [pisiila]. So whatever they call it
      in such and such a locality, one speaks accordingly, firmly adhering
      [to that expression] and insisting: 'Only this is correct; anything
      else is wrong.' This is how there comes to be insistence on local
      language and overriding normal usage.

      [And the reverse]

      --------------------------

      Janapadanirutti.m naabhiniveseyya, sama~n~na.m naatidhaaveyyaa'ti iti
      kho paneta.m vutta.m ki~nceta.m pa.ticca vutta.m: katha~nca bhikkhave,
      janapadaniruttiyaa ca abhiniveso hoti sama~n~naaya ca atisaaro: idha
      bhikkhave, tadavekaccesu janapadesu paatiiti sa~njaananti, pattanti
      sa~njaananti, vitthanti sa~njaananti. Saraavanti sa�j�nanti,
      dhaaropanti sa~njaananti, po�anti sa~njaananti. Pisiilavanti
      sa~njaananti. Iti yathaa yathaa na.m tesu tesu janapadesu sa~njaananti.
      Tathaa tathaa th�mas� par�massa abhinivissa voharati: idameva sacca.m moghama~n~nanti.



      __________________________________
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    • thomaslaw03
      ... I would like to know and understand how the sources of the Pali ( text ) information (as stated above) come from? (1) Pali was never a language proper at
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 11, 2004
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        --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Ong Yong Peng <ypong001@y...> wrote:
        > Dear Michael and friends,
        >
        >...
        >That notion is that "Pali" was never a language proper at all (but
        >it was also not an artificial language). It was a selection of
        >words from the languages current at the time. That selection was of
        >those words whose roots were the oldest, so that Pali actually
        >represents a language that antedates such languages as Maghadi.
        >...

        I would like to know and understand how the sources of the Pali
        ("text") information (as stated above) come from?

        (1) "Pali" was never a language proper at all?
        (2) it was also not an artificial language?
        (3) It was a selection of words from the languages current at the
        time?
        (4) That selection was of those words whose roots were the oldest, so
        that Pali actually represents a language that antedates such anguages
        as Maghadi?

        Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

        Sincerely,

        Thomas Law
      • Dimitry A. Ivakhnenko (������� ��������
        Hello, t I would like to know and understand how the sources of the Pali t ( text ) information (as stated above) come from? The passage from the
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 12, 2004
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          Hello,

          t> I would like to know and understand how the sources of the Pali
          t> ("text") information (as stated above) come from?

          The passage from the Ara.na-vibhanga Sutta (M 139.12)
          'You should not cling to a regional language; you should not reject
          common usage.'
          refers to rendering of worldly terms in communication with lay followers. The fact that it is emphasized may indicate that the monks were overly zealous in speaking only Pali in all circumstances and on all occasion, whereas worldly terms should be told to lay followers in their own language.


          A known scholar of Pali, Wilhelm Geiger wrote in the introduction to his book
          "Pali Literature and Language":

          "A consensus of opinion regarding the home of the dialect on which Pali is based has therefore not been achieved. Windish therefore falls back on the old tradition - and I am also inclined to do the same - according to which Pali should be regarded as a form of Magadhi, the language in which Buddha himself had preached. This language of Buddha was however surely no purely popular dialect, but a language of the higher and cultured classes which had been brought into being already in pre-Buddhistic times through the needs of intercommunication in India. Such a lingua franca naturally contained elements of all dialects, but was surely free from the most obtrusive dialectical characteristics. It was surely not altogether homogeneous. A man from Magadha country must have spoken it in one way, and a man from the districts of Kosala and Avanti in another, just as in Germany the high German of a cultured person from Wurttemberg, Saxony or Hamburg shows in each case peculiar characteristic features. Now, as Buddha, although he was no Magadhan himself, displayed his activities mainly in Magadha and the neighbouring countries, the Magadhi dialect might have imprinted on his language its own characteristic stamp. This language could have therefore been called Magadhi even if it avoided the grossest dialectical peculiarities of this language. As Windish has rightly pointed out, after the death of the master, a new artificial language must have been evolved out of the language of the Buddha. Attempts were made to retain the teachings of the Buddha in authentic form, and to impose this form also upon those portions which, although derived from the monastic from the monastic organizations in various provinces, were gradually incorporated in the canon. In connection with the designation of the canonical language as Magadhi, Windish also refers to Aar.sa, the language of the Jaina-suttas. It is called Ardha-Magadhi, i.e. "half-Magadhi". Now it is surely significant that the Ardha-Magadhi differs from Magadhi proper on similar points as Pali. For Ardha-Magadhi too does not change the r into l, and in the noun inflexion it shows the ending -o instead of Magadhic -e at least in many metrical pieces. On the other hand, as I believe to have myself observed, there are many remarkable analogies precisely between Aar.sa and Pali in vocabulary and morphology. Pali therefore might be regarded as a kind of Ardha-Magadhi. I am unable to endorse the view, which has apparently gained much currency at present, that the Pali canon is translated from some other dialect (according to Luders, from old Ardha-Magadhi). The peculiarities of its language may be fully explained on the hypothesis of (a) a gradual development and integration of various elements from different parts of India, (b) a long oral tradition extending over several centuries, and (c) the fact that the texts were written down in a different country.

          I consider it wiser not to hastily reject the tradition altogether but rather to understand it to mean that Pali was indeed no pure Magadhi, but was yet a form of the popular speech which was based on Magadhi and which was used bu Buddha himself. it would appear therefore that the Pali canon represents an effort to reflect the Buddhavacanam in its original form. This theory would have been refuted if it could be proved that the Pali canon must have been translated from some other dialect. Sylvain Levi has tried to prove this. He points out a number of termini such as ekodi, sa.mghaadisesa, etc., in which a sonant appears in the place of a surd. From these data he infers the existence of a pre-canonical language in which the softening of intervocalic surds was the rule. I do not consider Levi's arguments to be convincing. Firstly, because all these etymologies given by Levi are uncertain. Secondly, because the softening of the surds takes place not only in the "termini" but also in a large number of other words. Moreover, in my opinion, no special case should be made out of this phonological phenomenon. For they merely represent one of the various dialectical peculiarities which are also met with in Pali. Thus, for instance, we find equally frequent cases of the opposite process (hardening of a sonant) as well as various other features which considered together prove the mixed character of tha Pali language.

          If Pali is the form of Magadhi used by the Buddha, then the Pali canon would have to be regarded as the most authentic form of the Buddhavacanam, even though the teachings of the master might have been preached and learnt from the very beginning in the various provinces of India in the respective local dialects. The conclusion has been drawn -- wrongly, in my opinion, -- from Culavagga V.33.1 = Vin II.139. Here it is related, how two Bhikkhus complained to the master that the members of the order were of various origins, and that they distorted the words of Buddha by their own dialect (sakaaya niruttiyaa). They therefore proposed that the words of Buddha should be translated into Sanskrit verses (chandaso). Buddha however refused to grant the request and added: anujaanaami bhikkhave sakaaya niruttiyaa buddhavacanam pariyaapu.nitum. Rhys Davids and Oldenberg translate this passage by 'I allow you, oh brethren, to learn the words of the Buddha each in his own dialect.' This interpretation however is not in harmony with that of Buddhaghosa, according to whom it has to be translated by "I ordain the words of Buddha to be learnt in _his_ own language (i.e.Magadhi, the language used by Buddha himself)." After repeated examination of this passage I have come to the conclusion that we have to stick to the explanation given by Buddhaghosa. Neither the two monks or the Buddha himself could have thought of preaching in different cases in different dialects. Here the question is merely whether the words of Buddha migth be translated into Sanskrit or not. This is however clearly forbidden by the Master, at first negatively and then positively by the injunction beginning with 'anujaanaami'. The real meaning of this injunction is, as is also best in consonance with Indian spirit, that there can be no other form of the words of Buddha than in which the Master himself had preached. Thus even in the life-time of Buddha people were concerned about the way in which the teaching might be handed down as accurately as possible, both in form and in content. How much more must have been the anxiety of the disciples after his death! The external form was however Magadhi, thought according to tradition it is Pali."

          Professor Rhys Davids in
          the introduction to his Pali-English Dictionary says: "the Pali of
          the canonical books is based on that standard Kosala vernacular as
          spoken in the 6th and 7th century BC..... That vernacular was the
          mother tongue of the Buddha".

          Sincerely,
          Dimitry
        • Dimitry A. Ivakhnenko (������� ��������
          This is a forwarded message From: Michael Olds Date: Sunday, November 14, 2004, 7:12:37 PM Subject: Post to Pali Group
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 14, 2004
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            This is a forwarded message
            From: Michael Olds <mikeolds@...>
            Date: Sunday, November 14, 2004, 7:12:37 PM
            Subject: Post to Pali Group

            ===8<==============Original message text===============

            Hello Pali Group,

            While I find the scholarship on this subject interesting, what I am
            concerned with in all of this is the mental set of those who are approaching
            the study of Pali as a means, or one means, of breaking through to a deeper
            understanding of, or confirmation of a deep understanding of, the Dhamma.
            Not everyone here is approaching Pali study for this reason, so with
            respect, this is not addressed to them other than as a suggestion that when
            speaking of these matters they be expressed conditionally, not as a matter
            of confirmed proofs.

            In the case of Buddhists doing Dhamma Vicaya, it is not possible, and it is
            against the instructions we have in the suttas, to rely on ANY academic
            approach to proving such things as the language of the Buddha or even that
            what we have in the suttas was spoken by him at all. Such a thing is not
            possible to prove in ordinary reality, and anything that perports to be such
            a proof can easily be shown to be reliance on the word of some authority and
            therefor not qualified as something that can be 'known.' We are cautioned
            not only not to accept the reports of anyone other than the Buddha that he
            said such a thing 'face to face' with them, [and whether or not their
            reputation is that they were Arahant], but we are cautioned not even to
            unquestioningly accept what we have as the direct word of the Buddha
            himself.

            If you say "I know", I can believe you, but I cannot offer your assertion as
            proof of anything.

            I suggest that as Buddhists approaching the Pali for a greater understanding
            of the Dhamma we MUST allow for the massive scope of the mind that created
            this system. Years of study will show that within the scope of what the
            Buddha actually says in the suttas (allowing that what we have as the suttas
            is the only thing we know of this being, and is therefore what we must
            accept as the word of this being; accepting it's truth or not as our putting
            it into practice allows) there is total control of even the tiniest details.
            That he would choose his words haphazardly or without thought for the future
            is out of the question. That he would not be aware of and provide for how
            his words would degenerate over time and that he would not select his words
            to be the most enduring possible, is not consistant with the character of
            the mind that developed what we have in the suttas. And that this is so, and
            that the intention was just that his VERY WORDS were to be used in teaching
            and preserving the Dhamma, is evidenced in various places in the Suttas
            where Sariputta and others are reported to have given a discourse where the
            discourse was said to have been exactly similar to that delivered elsewhere
            by the Buddha --- syllable for syllable!

            Also:
            Pariyaapu.naati [pari+$p, cp. BSanskrit paryav$pnoti Divy 613] 1. to learn
            (by heart), to master, to gain mastership over, to learn thoroughly

            The other translators are suggesting this word means simply 'learning',
            where I see that it means actually a complete understanding or mastry. I
            suggest from personal experience that there is no 'mastery' of what the
            Buddha taught without checking what one thinks one knows against what we
            have here as the word of the Buddha. So it is counter to effectiveness to
            say that one should master the Buddha's Dhamma in one's own
            language...although I do think one must master the Buddhist Dhamma in one's
            own terms...using the Pali. Over time, sometimes a long long time, (and
            especially if one actually tries to teach the Dhamma using the Dhamma rather
            than explanations of the Dhamma) one will find that one's vocabulary evolves
            ever closer to the root concepts in English most of which are not far
            removed from those evident in the Pali. And the interesting thing relating
            to this discussion [and which is highly subject to abuse] is the fact that
            over time, having reached a sort of bottom line English vocabulary for the
            Dhamma, one becomes more and more convinced that even in English, ONLY
            certain words should be being used for construction of a 'Dhamma' or
            'Sutta'. The difference between using Pain or Shit for Dukkha, as per my
            example, is that Pain or Shit is a term that encompasses every meaning of
            this term, where 'suffering', 'anxiety', 'angst', etc do not.

            So...finally, all I wished to do by entering this discussion was to suggest
            that those whose interests are in acadmic studies and their sort of proofs
            be cognizant of the effect their absolute statements can have on those who,
            for their own benefit in their practice, should be being urged to keep an
            open mind and come to no conclusions based on reliance on authority.

            Thank you for this opportunity to express my views.

            Take Care;
            and may your life be long and happy!
            Michael Olds


            ===8<===========End of original message text===========
          • Gunnar Gällmo
            ... Actually, being too cock-sure is not only against the advise of the Buddha; it is also against the sound principles of secular scholarship, which isn t
            Message 5 of 5 , Nov 15, 2004
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              --- "Dimitry A. Ivakhnenko (Äìèòðèé Àëåêñååâè÷
              Èâàõíåíêî)" <koleso@...> skrev:
              >
              > This is a forwarded message
              > From: Michael Olds <mikeolds@...>
              > Date: Sunday, November 14, 2004, 7:12:37 PM
              > Subject: Post to Pali Group
              >
              > ===8<==============Original message
              > text===============
              >
              > Hello Pali Group,
              >
              > While I find the scholarship on this subject
              > interesting...

              > this is not addressed to them other than as
              > a suggestion that when
              > speaking of these matters they be expressed
              > conditionally, not as a matter
              > of confirmed proofs.

              Actually, being too cock-sure is not only against the
              advise of the Buddha; it is also against the sound
              principles of secular scholarship, which isn't
              scholarship at all if it is't open to reconsider in
              the face of new facts.

              Gunnar


              =====
              gunnargallmo@...
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