The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby PadmaPhala » Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:51 pm

da problem is english, not paali.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Zenainder » Thu Jun 20, 2013 1:34 pm

Or perhaps the problem is our attachment to absolutes as likely the goal in any translation is translating and understanding it "absolutely" in its original context. We have basic instructions that are to some extent "original" to the language translated to enlgish and, in the end, truly "knowing" the dhamma doesn't dawn by reading about it, but by the opening of the dhamma eye. In the end, if pali translating inspires your practice then study. Otherwise, no worries, mon!

It seems rather irrelevant to me, even if you had a time machine and heard the discourses firsthand from the Buddha himself you would still have a culturally entangled understanding.
If the words "I", "me", or "you" are used, they are for the use of convenience related purposes. None of these exist, of course. ;)
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:40 am

BlackBird wrote:
danieLion wrote:In which sutta(s) does the Buddha instruct us to learn Pali?



Why would someone instruct his audience to learn the language (more or less) that they ALREADY speak.

The Buddha's native tongue was a North Indian dialect called Magadhi, but there is no version of his teachings preserved to this day in that dialect. One of the reasons is that they originally were not written down at all, but merely spoken by the Buddha himself and carefully memorized by his students. When the Buddhist teachings started to spread around the Indian subcontinent (and later other parts of Asia), they were continually translated into the local dialects and languages.

When the teachings were written down, around three or four hundred years after the death of the Buddha, they already existed in several different, carefully memorized, versions - one of which, the Pali version (a South-West Indian dialect), became the scriptural canon of the Theravada school, later spreading from Sri Lanka; and several other versions of the same teachings, originally written down in Sanskrit and different North Indian colloquial versions of Sanskrit or other North Indian dialects, including Gandhari and so called "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit", were used by the Mahayana schools of Buddhism, now mainly (partially) preserved in translations to Tibetan and Chinese.

Early European scholars thought that Pali (the language of the Theravada canon) was the same language as Magadhi, the native tongue of the Buddha, but later linguistic studies have showed that's not the case.

This means, all preserved versions of the original teachings of the Buddha are translations. Nevertheless, the difference in content and style is fairly minor, which is also an indication of how exact and faithfully they were memorized and kept before they were written down in different versions. I'm not talking about the so called "Mahayana sutras", that exist only in the Mahayana traditions of Buddhism, and were originally written in Sanskrit or North Indian dialects, sometimes even in Chinese.

Since the Pali canon is the only one that is preserved in its entirety, it has retained a special place in the studies of early Buddhist doctrine. One should not forget, however, that it is a translation, and that it is a version written down after Buddhism had already split into several different sects and traditions, and that it thus only represents one of those sects (the one that later evolved into modern Theravada).

In recent years, more and more of the alternative versions of the original sutras have been retrieved through archeological finds in China and Central Asia, and/or recontructed through retranslations from extant Chinese and especially Tibetan faithfully literal translations. Through comparing these versions with the Pali versions we can get a far more nuanced and extensive understanding of early Buddhism in India.

Source:
"Buddhist Sutras - Origin, Development, Transmission" by Kogen Mizuno
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:41 am

tiltbillings wrote:
danieLion wrote:
dL wrote:Plus, this doesn't answer my question. In which sutta(s) does the Buddha instruct us to learn Pali?
Kindly,
dL
tiltbillings wrote:You know the answer to that question.

Which goes to the problematic aspect.
Why?

Diminishes the necessity justifications.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:43 am

What standard or authority can we refer to determine if Pali's better than Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, or other languages of early Buddhist discourse?
http://suttacentral.net/
Last edited by danieLion on Sun Jun 23, 2013 4:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Kare » Sat Jun 22, 2013 9:11 am

danieLion wrote:
BlackBird wrote:
danieLion wrote:In which sutta(s) does the Buddha instruct us to learn Pali?



Why would someone instruct his audience to learn the language (more or less) that they ALREADY speak.

The Buddha's native tongue was a North Indian dialect called Magadhi, but there is no version of his teachings preserved to this day in that dialect. One of the reasons is that they originally were not written down at all, but merely spoken by the Buddha himself and carefully memorized by his students. When the Buddhist teachings started to spread around the Indian subcontinent (and later other parts of Asia), they were continually translated into the local dialects and languages.

When the teachings were written down, around three or four hundred years after the death of the Buddha, they already existed in several different, carefully memorized, versions - one of which, the Pali version (a South-West Indian dialect), became the scriptural canon of the Theravada school, later spreading from Sri Lanka; and several other versions of the same teachings, originally written down in Sanskrit and different North Indian colloquial versions of Sanskrit or other North Indian dialects, including Gandhari and so called "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit", were used by the Mahayana schools of Buddhism, now mainly (partially) preserved in translations to Tibetan and Chinese.

Early European scholars thought that Pali (the language of the Theravada canon) was the same language as Magadhi, the native tongue of the Buddha, but later linguistic studies have showed that's not the case.

This means, all preserved versions of the original teachings of the Buddha are translations. Nevertheless, the difference in content and style is fairly minor, which is also an indication of how exact and faithfully they were memorized and kept before they were written down in different versions. I'm not talking about the so called "Mahayana sutras", that exist only in the Mahayana traditions of Buddhism, and were originally written in Sanskrit or North Indian dialects, sometimes even in Chinese.

Since the Pali canon is the only one that is preserved in its entirety, it has retained a special place in the studies of early Buddhist doctrine. One should not forget, however, that it is a translation, and that it is a version written down after Buddhism had already split into several different sects and traditions, and that it thus only represents one of those sects (the one that later evolved into modern Theravada).

In recent years, more and more of the alternative versions of the original sutras have been retrieved through archeological finds in China and Central Asia, and/or recontructed through retranslations from extant Chinese and especially Tibetan faithfully literal translations. Through comparing these versions with the Pali versions we can get a far more nuanced and extensive understanding of early Buddhism in India.

Source:
"Buddhist Sutras - Origin, Development, Transmission" by Kogen Mizuno


Ah, this persistent confusion about Pali and Magadhi!

I have written about this before: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=9686
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby binocular » Sat Jun 22, 2013 9:11 am

danieLion wrote:What standard or authority can we refer to determine if Pali's better than Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, or other languages of early Buddhist discourse?

That depends on what you want to accomplish.

Also, it depends on whom you wish to impress.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Kare » Sat Jun 22, 2013 10:57 am

danieLion wrote:What standard or authority can we refer to determine if Pali's better than Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, or other languages of early Buddhist discourse?


It depends on how many filters of translation you want to have between yourself and the teaching of the Buddha.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sun Jun 23, 2013 4:56 am

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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sun Jun 23, 2013 5:10 am

Kare wrote:
danieLion wrote:What standard or authority can we refer to determine if Pali's better than Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, or other languages of early Buddhist discourse?


It depends on how many filters of translation you want to have between yourself and the teaching of the Buddha.

According to Ven. Analayo, these are not "filters of translation" but heterogeneous parallels from the oral tradition. See, for instance, his Reflections on Comparative Āgama Studies.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Sylvester » Sun Jun 23, 2013 5:21 am

danieLion wrote:What standard or authority can we refer to determine if Pali's better than Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, or other languages of early Buddhist discourse?
http://suttacentral.net/



Daniel

This is not such an easy issue to address.

It is true that many Chinese translations are able to have a consistent use of formal, prepositional and syntactic techniques to render the highly inflected Indic very faithfully. Even if transliteration mistakes are made, scholars such as Ven Analayo are able to identify these and point to a different Indic word as the source. Sometimes, the Pali sutta and its Chinese parallel look almost like carbon-copies, eg DN 15 and its Dharmaguptaka parallel in the Taisho's Dirgha, so there's hardly a basis to say which is better than the other.

Yet, it clear that sometimes the Chinese can furnish better readings. Missing passages from the Pali can be found in the Chinese parallels, sometimes fitting in so neatly that it can be made to fit into a putative ola leaf that was lost. Critical editing of Pali variant readings are many times resolved on the basis of Agama parallels. At the same time, we can see that Chinese parallels are translated according to Abhidharmic terminology to which a translator may ascribe to. Some critical work is needed to try to identify the original Indic, and in such cases, the Pali is unfiltered.

However, at this point in time, when scholarship is just beginning to dive into the mass of early Buddhist literatures, it will be sometime before your question can be answered definitively, if at all.
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Re: The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Postby danieLion » Fri Jun 28, 2013 3:41 am

Thanks Sylvester.
FWIW: I just read in Amaro's/Pasanno's The Island that Pali does not require the subject-predicate form--which makes me warm up to Pali even more because it avoids the common "is of identity" and other Aristotelian linguistic trappings.
Kindly,
Daniel
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Re: The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jun 28, 2013 6:36 am

Note name change of thread from "The Problem With Pali: to "The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali" per original poster's request.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Postby Sylvester » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:22 am

danieLion wrote:Thanks Sylvester.
FWIW: I just read in Amaro's/Pasanno's The Island that Pali does not require the subject-predicate form--which makes me warm up to Pali even more because it avoids the common "is of identity" and other Aristotelian linguistic trappings.
Kindly,
Daniel



Shriek!!! Have I been misled all this time about nouns and modifiers? Could you pls direct me to the page of an online edition where this was uttered?
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Re: The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:44 am

I think Daniel is referring to what I quoted here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=11448
Due to the different nature of the English and Pali languages, there are
difficulties in translation that may obscure crucial aspects of the Dhamma. If we
translate the stream-entry vision literally from Pali, we have something like ‘what-
ever arising-dhamma cessation-dhamma.’ This is terrible English but beautiful
insight. English grammar requires subject and verb. Thus ‘something’ arises and
ceases. Hence ‘dhamma’ comes across as a thing, or an attribute of things. A thing
has existence in time, so whatever thing arises, or is subject to arising, subsequent-
ly ceases. This is not really news to the reflective mind. However if we consider
stream-entry as something profound, it would be useful to consider the experience
to be one in which the very process that brings ‘things’ to awareness is seen into.
That is, the mind is experiencing an ‘event-stream’ dynamic of arising and ceasing
that rules out substantiality.

Page 294 of this PDF: http://forestsanghapublications.org/ass ... Island.pdf

:anjali:
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Re: The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Postby Sylvester » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:24 am

Much obliged, Mike.

I seem to recall having said something about that before. It's a bit silly to interpret the yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ sabbantaṃ nirodhadhamman in the way that it has been done. In Pali (at least the strata unaffected by Paninian grammar), there is a silent copula hoti (is) implied in many sentences. So the verb is there, it's simply unarticulated.
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Re: The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Postby Kare » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:52 am

Sylvester wrote:Much obliged, Mike.

I seem to recall having said something about that before. It's a bit silly to interpret the yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ sabbantaṃ nirodhadhamman in the way that it has been done. In Pali (at least the strata unaffected by Paninian grammar), there is a silent copula hoti (is) implied in many sentences. So the verb is there, it's simply unarticulated.


You are right. This is simply what is called a nominal sentence. Nothing special. Nothing to build fancy interpretations on.

Sigh ... there are so many fundamental misunderstandings about Pali articulated in this thread that I just give up.
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Re: The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Postby Sylvester » Fri Jun 28, 2013 3:25 pm

Thanks Kare.

Being the linguist that I am not, I had to check out what a nominal sentence denoted. I agree, and now I know that both Chinese and Pali use zero copula nominal sentences. Not a common feature in English, except perhaps in Singlish...

BTW, does zero copula feature in Scandivanian languages?

If there is one drawback I see, not in Pali, but in the European scholarship on Pali, is that the diverse linguistic backgrounds of the scholars lead to the recognition of linguistic traits shared by Pali and their vernacular but not recognising the traits found in the other language. It seems that there are 3 great schools of Western Pali scholarship - the English, the Scandinavian and the German. Do you think there is a possibility that one day Pali grammar scholarship would be able to transcend the vernacular limitations of the scholars and be described in some meta-linguistics that aims to describe all languages?

Wijesekera attempted such an approach by marrying grammar, logic and psychology. Since I am not a linguist, I wonder if the dream has been realised.
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Re: The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Postby danieLion » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:18 pm

Kare,
Please don't give up. I'm trying to learn from you.

Kare, Sylvester:
Could you please re-word the posts you made since my last in plain laymen's terms? They're way over my head. To start with: so, Pasanno's wrong; and is subject-predicate the same as subject-verb?
Kindly
dL
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Re: The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:43 pm

danieLion wrote:Kare,
Please don't give up. I'm trying to learn from you.
Agreed. Please, Kare, do continue contribute in this thread.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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