Re: Fwd: Language of the Buddha
- View Source--- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Ong Yong Peng <ypong001@y...> wrote:
> Dear Michael and friends,I would like to know and understand how the sources of the Pali
>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.
("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
(4) That selection was of those words whose roots were the oldest, so
that Pali actually represents a language that antedates such anguages
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
- View SourceHello,
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
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".
- View SourceThis 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
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!
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.
and may your life be long and happy!
===8<===========End of original message text===========
- View Source--- "Dimitry A. Ivakhnenko (Äìèòðèé Àëåêñååâè÷
Èâàõíåíêî)" <koleso@...> skrev:
>Actually, being too cock-sure is not only against the
> 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
> Hello Pali Group,
> While I find the scholarship on this subject
> 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.
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.