Why Learn Pali

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

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arijitmitter
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Why Learn Pali

Postby arijitmitter » Thu Jul 04, 2013 4:48 am

Some of my fellow Forum members are anxious about Pali meanings and dictionaries.

I have a question. Why does a Theravadan Buddhist need to learn Pali ?

Here are my arguments against making a conscious effort to learn Pali.

A ) Old Testament is written in Hebrew and Aramaic and New Testament in old Greek. Does that mean a person who reads the Bible in English is any less devout ? Does it mean that Mother Teresa who did not know old Greek and was a simple Catholic nun failed to carry out Christ's teaching ?

B ) Pali is a dead language. No one anywhere speaks it. From Sanskrit we have an idea how it is pronounced. Pali scholars and monks have deciphered Pali texts but it takes a life time of education and dedication. Most Theravadan monks cannot understand Pali - verified from a Bhikkhu whom I know [ though they can read Pali written in English or any other language phonetically ] [ just like an ordinary Christian priest can speak some Latin verses used in Church liturgy but cannot converse in Latin ]

Such as take the word Sati - and you try to learn it's meaning. Pali is a way that common people pronounced Sanskrit 2500 years ago. Such as an educated Indian today will say college but an illiterate Indian will say kalej [ I am an Indian so no harm done if I poke my own race in the eye ].

In same way what was in Sanskrit " Smriti " meaning memory or remembering became Sati in Pali and has no relationship with the actual word Sati in Sanskrit [ wife of Shiva who killed herself because Shiva insulted her father - Hindu mythology - probably Puranas ].

So if you try to search Sati in the internet you will end up really confused. Now imagine trying to understand " Kamasukhallikanuyogo ". I can make out that Kama means lust and Sukh means happiness beyond that I am lost. I kind of get that the word must mean happiness from sensual pleasure and guess what - Thanissaro Bhikkhu has translated it as " craving for sensual pleasure " and Ven Nanamoli Thera as " craving for sensual desires ". But I cannot get the meaning of 90 % of what is written in a Pali stanza let alone translate it to erase my doubts should I have reason to believe a translation I am reading is incorrect.. And unlike me you do not know Sanskrit - the root language. For all I know Kamasukhallikanuyogo might have meant refrain from sensual desires !! And I just made a lucky guess.

My suggestion to the members who are not going to devote their life to learning Pali is learn 200 common Pali words and their English meanings. But other than that read the English translations [ more than one if possible ] and get the essence of the Sutta.

:namaste: Arijit

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby fig tree » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:37 am

arijitmitter wrote:Some of my fellow Forum members are anxious about Pali meanings and dictionaries.
I have a question. Why does a Theravadan Buddhist need to learn Pali ?

I think speaking of "need" is not the best way to put the question. Learning Pali is one of many different practices that might be of use for Buddhist practice. It would be unusual to "need" to learn it, although the only way to preserve scripture is for at least some of us to learn the language it is in.

arijitmitter wrote:Some of my fellow Forum members are anxious about Pali meanings and dictionaries.

Here are my arguments against making a conscious effort to learn Pali.

A ) Old Testament is written in Hebrew and Aramaic and New Testament in old Greek. Does that mean a person who reads the Bible in English is any less devout ? Does it mean that Mother Teresa who did not know old Greek and was a simple Catholic nun failed to carry out Christ's teaching ?

No, but again this would only be necessarily so if it were more important to Christian practice to learn these languages than all the rest of their practices together. I've known a number of serious Christians who have decided that it's worth the effort, however. Despite the length of time they have had to produce English translations of these texts, there still are a lot of problems with them. Poetic language is often hard to translate really well. In some places, the meaning is more plain in the original but it's become customary to obfuscate it somewhat for the masses. Muslims also claim that the original text of their scriptures has levels of meaning that just don't translate.

I know barely any Pali, but comparing the original of a sutta to a translation, I find one can often get a sense of the extent to which the translator has paraphrased, which is useful. Even just in very casual study, knowing something more about the original term has value. One day some of us were talking about the chapter of the Dhammapada about "appamada", and it seems like an important concept, not a perfect match for any single English word.

arijitmitter wrote:B ) Pali is a dead language. No one anywhere speaks it. From Sanskrit we have an idea how it is pronounced. Pali scholars and monks have deciphered Pali texts but it takes a life time of education and dedication. Most Theravadan monks cannot understand Pali - verified from a Bhikkhu whom I know [ though they can read Pali written in English or any other language phonetically ] [ just like an ordinary Christian priest can speak some Latin verses used in Church liturgy but cannot converse in Latin ]

It doesn't really take your whole life to learn it. It may be that one can spend a whole life studying it without arriving at a perfect understanding of it, but that isn't necessary. It may not be of much use outside of sutta study, but that seems like enough of a purpose.

arijitmitter wrote:Such as take the word Sati - and you try to learn it's meaning. Pali is a way that common people pronounced Sanskrit 2500 years ago. Such as an educated Indian today will say college but an illiterate Indian will say kalej [ I am an Indian so no harm done if I poke my own race in the eye ].

In same way what was in Sanskrit " Smriti " meaning memory or remembering became Sati in Pali and has no relationship with the actual word Sati in Sanskrit [ wife of Shiva who killed herself because Shiva insulted her father - Hindu mythology - probably Puranas ].

So if you try to search Sati in the internet you will end up really confused. Now imagine trying to understand " Kamasukhallikanuyogo ". I can make out that Kama means lust and Sukh means happiness beyond that I am lost. I kind of get that the word must mean happiness from sensual pleasure and guess what - Thanissaro Bhikkhu has translated it as " craving for sensual pleasure " and Ven Nanamoli Thera as " craving for sensual desires ". But I cannot get the meaning of 90 % of what is written in a Pali stanza let alone translate it to erase my doubts should I have reason to believe a translation I am reading is incorrect.. And unlike me you do not know Sanskrit - the root language. For all I know Kamasukhallikanuyogo might have meant refrain from sensual desires !! And I just made a lucky guess.

I think this kind of example goes to show why poking at Pali randomly like I have sometimes is not so satisfactory, and a more thorough study in which one learns how words get combined in Pali could be rewarding. It's presumably true that only for some of us is it worth the trouble, but I think it is for at least some of us, even if we don't wind up as Pali experts.

arijitmitter wrote:My suggestion to the members who are not going to devote their life to learning Pali is learn 200 common Pali words and their English meanings. But other than that read the English translations [ more than one if possible ] and get the essence of the Sutta.

The first half of this suggestion sounds good, but I'm not so sure we should all stop there.

Regards,
Fig Tree

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 04, 2013 6:31 am

fig tree wrote: . . . Fig Tree
Thank you for you thoughtful response.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby arijitmitter » Thu Jul 04, 2013 6:37 am

Dear Fig Tree,

Let me clarify my position - those who are willing to learn Pali to translate and understand better, I encourage with all my heart. But many who are not, get scared on an internet Forum when they see hair splitting dissection of a Pali word / sentence.

I myself was scared whether Theravada was for me when I saw it. But I pushed past it and thought - Pali Canon is 6 feet long and has 43 large sized volume. Even if I learn 10 % of it that is 1,000 Suttas. At one Sutta per week it will take me 20 years and by that time better translations will have been churned out by scholars and monks who are scholars.

Assuming that a normal practitioner has 3 hours a day to spare - he shall use 1.5 hours for meditation and 1.5 hours for Sutta study in English [ hopefully he does not read it at speed of reading the morning paper ]. If he also gets involved in the task of translating for himself sometimes then he is entering a web of confusion.

I carried the question to two Bhikkhus - one whom I meet with in real life and one on internet - they both said " Concentrate on study and meditation in whatever language you want. Forget about translating Pali; even we do not know Pali "

A few hours back I watched an interview of a monk from West living in Thailand for 30 years. He was describing various concepts like anatta, Kamma, Self when he uttered a Pali word and then said it means " ............. " in English and then followed up by saying " I hope it means that " with a smile.

In 1989 when I learned PC DOS copying files meant C> copy c:smile.exe a: and my mother could not learn it [ I was 19 and she 52 ]. When Windows came along she learned just fine Copy Paste. That does not mean I have stopped tinkering with command line or using Linux.

Most Theravada practitioners who want to join the tradition do not want a black window with white letters C:\>netsh interface ip show config - they want to type in name and password and go to Google and find what they want to know.

However I do not wish to enter a controversy. I wanted to write the post so that should a person who is interested in being a Theravadin chances upon this post he / she knows there is no need to be daunted. It can be learned just fine in English,

:namaste: Arijit

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby Ben » Thu Jul 04, 2013 6:51 am

The vast majority of people engaged in Pali translation, who engage in discussion on the meaning of Pali words provide and English translation so there should be no reason for anyone to feel "scared". Those who don't are betraying their lack of ability as a translator or are selfish.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jul 04, 2013 6:56 am

Welcome Arijit,

Perhaps you should read this thread, which goes over many of the issues you raise:
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=16745

I think it's clear that one can study Theravada Buddhism quite happily without having to learn Pali. However, a Forum such as this allows those who are interested to engage in discussion about technicalities of Pali, among various other topics.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby arijitmitter » Thu Jul 04, 2013 7:02 am

I am getting misunderstood. I myself have posted an audio in same sub Forum to aid those who wish to pronounce Pali. So I am all for people reading Pali.

But when I was deciding what type of Buddhist to be and had really no idea of difference between Soka Gakkai, Zen, Mahyana, Theravada and was visiting various Forums and websites for about 2 years I was much daunted by Theravada Forums because of the abundance of Pali [ I do not mean this Forum where there is a Pali sub Forum and being a Pali sub Forum it is normal people will discuss Pali translations here ].

My post was to help such beginners. Suppose this page is web crawled in a month and someone who wants to become a Theravadin - types into Google " is Pali necessary for being Theravada Buddhist " [ assuming unlike me he has no access to an actual Bhikkhu ] - he will know that no it is not essential but if you want to learn Pali and translate that is great.

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby Ben » Thu Jul 04, 2013 7:07 am

Thank you for your concern, Arjit.
But I think that from experience many of our new members post in the introduction forum or in the Discovering Theravada forum where their concerns are addressed. Buddhists need not learn Pali to be sincere practitioners, but it can be a valuable aid should they have the time and volition to explore the ancient texts in the original language.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby BlackBird » Thu Jul 04, 2013 7:27 am

As others have stated some very important reasons why to know some Pali, I have nothing much to add, except that when it comes to the Buddha dhamma translation of different words in certain ways can lead to radically different interpretations of the Dhamma.

For instance the term Nama rupa has traditionally been translated as mind and matter, or mentality/materiality. But a number of translators have seen obvious troubles with this and have (in my opinion correctly) rendered Nama as 'name', giving us name and form. Another troubling case is Sankhara, which in my sub-tradition is translated as determinant, or determination, or if we're trying to be inclusive 'condition' - Essentially interchangable with the word 'hetu' this is radically different to traditional translations where it has been a diverse term with several translations depending upon context - Often it is labelled 'formations' or 'mental formations' and naturally this gives us two very differerent conceptions of this doctrinal term.

I am slowly taking up the practice of learning more and more pali words, and the more I learn, the deeper my understanding of the Dhamma is conceptually. As others have said, translation is problematic, it is often not directly comparable. Often there is no clear word for word comparison between languages, and it is often hard to do a phrase justice. Knowing what the pali word means gives you a more direct way of communicating the Buddha's ideas without using problematic english words that may only approximately cover the original meaning.

Yeah, it's a dead language, but I have heard stories of learned monks conversing in pali. To me that sounds fantastic.

In fact I'm getting excited just writing this, I'm gonna go off an learn some pali!

metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 04, 2013 7:42 am

BlackBird wrote:
I am slowly taking up the practice of learning more and more pali words,
It is not just the words. Pali is a highly inflected language. Grammar and context are always paramount in understanding how a Pali word is used.

Yeah, it's a dead language, but I have heard stories of learned monks conversing in pali. To me that sounds fantastic.
I saw it. The abbot of Wat Bowonniwet when I was there is late 1974 would carry on conversations in Pali with other monks from Wat B and who were visting from elsewhere. These monks seemed to enjoy that very much.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby BlackBird » Thu Jul 04, 2013 7:47 am

tiltbillings wrote:
BlackBird wrote:
I am slowly taking up the practice of learning more and more pali words,
It is not just the words. Pali is a highly inflected language. Grammar and context are always paramount in understanding how a Pali word is used.

Yes you're quite right Tilt, it's not just the words but context. Quite right.

tiltbillings wrote:
Yeah, it's a dead language, but I have heard stories of learned monks conversing in pali. To me that sounds fantastic.
I saw it. The abbot of Wat Bowonniwet when I was there is late 1974 would carry on conversations in Pali with other monks from Wat B and who were visting from elsewhere. These monks seemed to enjoy that very much.


That's awesome. I'd love to be able to do that. Would accord you some manner of privacy even in the middle of the danasala.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 04, 2013 7:52 am

This may be of some intertest for those who are not intent of learning Pali full-bore, but want a good and useful taste of the language.

http://store.pariyatti.org/Pali-WorkBook_p_1771.html
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby arijitmitter » Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:10 pm

I read about 70 % of the posts in the thread that mikenzen so kindly shared viewtopic.php?f=16&t=16745

Really engrossing debate that was.

To come to a great example shared - Nama Rupa

Ven K S Dhammannanda has described it thus -
... Mind (nama) and matter (rupa). Mind consists of the combination of sensations, perceptions, volitional activities and consciousness. Matter consists of the combination of the four elements of solidity, fluidity, motion and heat.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu has described it thus -
And what [monks] is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are, [monks], called name-&-form. [ from elsewhere four great elements are earth, water, fire and air ]

Irrespective of the differences in translation one understands that " Nama refers to the psychological elements of the human being while Rupa refers to the physical " [ Wikipedia ]. And despite the difference in selection of words both translations adequately convey the meaning of the word.

Now one can individually translate vedanā, saññā, cetanā, phasso, manasikāro to check what definition has been given above. But is that not an addiction to an esoteric practice ? Any one of the two translations above adequately convey meaning of Nama Rupa. Can one really check it any better than two people who between them have more than 50 years of Pali learning ? And can that time not be better used in meditation ?

I have noted a fact that none in any Forum anywhere seems to have understood [ and if they have understood they choose to remain silent and follow it instead of espousing it ] - Buddha gave several thousand discourses in 45 years. No one disciple heard all of them [ maybe a few did but I am not sure anyone heard all the discourses ]. But many close to Buddha gained at least some enlightenment e.g his step mother Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī [ I can name more but no need to ]. Was Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī present at all of Buddha's discourses ? Certainly not. Are you as enlightened as her that Buddha predicts you will attain Buddhahood in a future life ? Certainly not. You perhaps know more of Buddha's teachings [ discourses ] than Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī. But .... you missed the wood for the trees. [ " you " is not any particular member; it indicates anyone who lays great stress on analytical study of Suttas down to it's atomic equivalent ]

Why this immense stress on knowing the Suttas in as much original detail as Buddha might have spoken it ? Buddha was son of a King and certainly received best education possible. He very certainly spoke Sanskrit in addition to Pali; it cannot be accepted that his father denied him good education which will have included Sanskrit. Perhaps he gave some of the discourses in Sanskrit and they were later translated to Pali. Again his sermons were written down long after his death. Much of what he actually said might have been lost 2000 years back, not today when it is translated into English.

What is of essense is the Dhamma. And from the bickering in the post quoted above by mikenzen, Dhamma was the last thing on the mind of most of those taking part.

In East you are not supposed to dissect philosophy endlessly. It is not a lecture on Spinoza or Hegel in Oxford classroom. It is to be accepted in the heart and it does not matter if 5 % or 10 % of the scripture is actually learned [ Hinduism or Buddhism ]. What matters is how much heart went into it. If you learned 100 % of the philosophy it would not get you any closer to self realization than someone who learned 10 % of it [ or even in extreme cases of Saints who learned no philosophy at all ]. In East it is never about the learning but the heart.

if they have understood they choose to remain silent and follow it instead of espousing it


Now having spoken more than I am used to I will take my own advice and zip my lips for few days and meditate more,

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby reflection » Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:26 pm

Some people can get a lot of insight and/or inspiration when reading the suttas in their original language. This way Dhamma and reading dhamma come together. There is not automatically a gap between the two. Sure, I think some people overemphasize the importance of their understanding of Pali and the suttas, but similar other people probably underestimate how much one can gain from it. Everybody needs to find their own balance and for some this includes learning Pali. And for others, it does not.

That said, I think it's clear what's more productive for our Dhamma practice: Actually learning to read Pali or having a meta-discussion about it, as we are doing now..

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby BlackBird » Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:42 pm

arijitmitter wrote:Now one can individually translate vedanā, saññā, cetanā, phasso, manasikāro to check what definition has been given above. But is that not an addiction to an esoteric practice ? Any one of the two translations above adequately convey meaning of Nama Rupa. Can one really check it any better than two people who between them have more than 50 years of Pali learning ? And can that time not be better used in meditation ?


Hi there arijitmitter

I wonder if the content of your last post has strayed somewhat from the boundaries of what is usually discussed in this particular subforum, but that's not for me to decide. I saw you wrote a lot, but the above excerpt stands out as something I wish to address.

Nama rupa translated as Name & Form is what I strongly believe, through my own experience of the nature of our existence, and through the framework provided to me by Ven Nyanavira - To be the true meaning of this word. Others would disagree. It is one of those tricky words, I can't remember where but somewhere in the Majjhima notes Ven. Bodhi agrees that name and form is the literal translation and he agrees to use such a translation occasionally, but then goes ahead with mentality materiality where he thinks the sutta is concerned with meditation. I think this is a very important problem.

One reason is because when you translate nama as Mentality, you include consciousness therein, despite the fact that the Buddha has explicitly not included vinnyana when he lists the components of nama, and indeed in the usual formulation of paticcasamupada we have Vinnyana as condition for nama rupa, if it were included within the formula of nama rupa it would not be listed as the cause of it. I must say that when they are on their game, the comentators are careful not to explicitly include consciousness within nama, and I do not have their reasoning on hand, but I know it is at the very least implicitly included, and at worst (as I seem to remember) there might be a bit of wriggling to stuff it in there, much in the same way that as a child whilst constructing a puzzle one was left with pieces that didn't fit, but you tried to make them fit anyway. That said, I do reckon there's a chance my memories faulty here and the commentators have never tried to make consciousness an implicit part of nama, but I have certainly sat through more than one lecture where it has been told to be so.

I would really like to just copy and paste Ven. Nyanavira's argument here but the site is currently down, and pdf doesn't copy. So in the mean time I will go on to say that in his framework - Nama is that which is experienced through a combo of the sense doors:
- Perception (ie. this thing has this property)
- Feeling
- Intention (what it is used for, what is the experience's purpose, experience is always purposeful i.e. it is always for something, just as the chair is for sitting)
- Contact
- Attention (our focus is always directed towards something at the fore and other things within the experience seep towards the background. This is the driving force of what I believe Ven. Nyanavira was getting at within his piece on Fundamental structure, but then I haven't read it all - Point is: Our attention is focused towards one thing to the gradual exclusion of other things. We have X amount of attention and it can be focussed on one thing primarily, everything else fades from that thing into the background, into the noise. So if I'm staring at the television, and i'm listening to the show, and my mother starts speaking to me, I likely will not grasp what she said. It's not that the sound didn't reach my ears but that my attention was not foccused upon her, but on the TV. So despite hearing her speaking, I was not paying attention. That is how manasikhara affects experience. But again it is wildly different from an Abhidhammic translation. Ven. Bodhesako wrote upon this topic at some length and his work is available somewhere on the net)

So we can see that nama is not a thing as such, but an aggregate of things. (which conincidentally we translate as dhamma without a capital D, but going into that would be a further digression in a sea of digressions)
As for rupa, it is the 4 elements - which are characteristics - such as with earth, that it has the characteristic of resistance. That much is agreed upon.

How does Name come to be all this crap? That I am not entirely set on, but my theory is that you have name for things you experience so it is the name of this and the name of that, all of which is experienced. You are naming the parts that make up experience.

Consciousness is the presence of this experience in reality. In that regard consciousness isn't something tangible, it's the presence of something tangible. Consciousness is the presence of nama and rupa. That is why with Consciousness as necessary condition, there is nama rupa. But also in some suttas it is stated that with nama rupa as condition -> consciousness. This is because consciousness needs something to be conscious of, if there is no nama rupa then there can be no consciousness

This should make it immediately clear that at least with the framework I am using, one translation of nama is vastly different from the next, and with a translation of it as name, we are gifted quite an active force that can be applied to how we frame and conceive experience. I have found this framework infinitely useful in my practice of satipatthana. I cannot overstate how useful it has been, really I cannot.

This is a completely different conception to what it is commonly thought of in the traditional exegesis. But this is my explanation and rationale.

Of course naturally we reach similar and perhaps graver inconsistencies when we try to find an application for this rendering within the traditional translations, it is only with a complete overhaul of the traditional rendering of the pali term sankhara (from such confused and variegated terms as found on wikipedia: "mental formations", "impulses", "volition", or "compositional factors": all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas, opinions, prejudices, compulsions, and decisions triggered by an object" - to 'that which conditions' or a 'determinant of x' - From an active composition of the mentality to a something which is synonymous with dependent arising, and a structural principle of experience: That one thing relies upon another, and without that thing, it cannot exist.) that we can establish any sort of bhavana practice that includes this rendering in a meaningful and active sense - I.e. not just a fact - Since facts are dead in the water, and the Dhamma is quite 'active' so to speak - It is to be realized just as the 8fold Noble Path is to be developed.

If this is not the appropriate place for my blathering of heterodox ideas then I do apologise to the moderators, I had a good sit tonight and the concepts have flown the coop, so please remove this post if this is the case. Looking back on this mess, and it is a mess, I am partially ashamed of 'letting loose' :lol:
Last edited by BlackBird on Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:32 pm, edited 7 times in total.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Kare
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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby Kare » Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:50 pm

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby binocular » Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:20 pm

arijitmitter wrote:Why this immense stress on knowing the Suttas in as much original detail as Buddha might have spoken it ?
/.../
What is of essense is the Dhamma. And from the bickering in the post quoted above by mikenzen, Dhamma was the last thing on the mind of most of those taking part.

In East you are not supposed to dissect philosophy endlessly. It is not a lecture on Spinoza or Hegel in Oxford classroom. It is to be accepted in the heart and it does not matter if 5 % or 10 % of the scripture is actually learned [ Hinduism or Buddhism ]. What matters is how much heart went into it. If you learned 100 % of the philosophy it would not get you any closer to self realization than someone who learned 10 % of it [ or even in extreme cases of Saints who learned no philosophy at all ]. In East it is never about the learning but the heart.

It seems to me that what you're displaying is a fairly typical Eastern attitude to religion/spirituality.
I think it would be interesting to explore what are the differences between East and West, how come they exist, and how they manifest in people's attitudes to scriptures and the language thereof.

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby arijitmitter » Thu Jul 04, 2013 3:19 pm

binocular wrote:
It seems to me that what you're displaying is a fairly typical Eastern attitude to religion/spirituality.
I think it would be interesting to explore what are the differences between East and West, how come they exist, and how they manifest in people's attitudes to scriptures and the language thereof.


Quite correct and I will be glad to elaborate.

I will give two extreme examples both from Hinduism but since both Hinduism and Buddhism originated in the same country the same example should hold true [ whether String Theory has 10 dimensions or 11 dimensions is a matter of immense distinction to physicists; but same methods, techniques and thought process went into constructing both theories ]

Bhakta Kabir [ born 1440 AD ] was an illiterate Muslim boy who was probably born out of wedlock to a Brahmin woman and then abandoned. He was brought up by poor Muslim parents in Varanasi. Despite his wish to learn about scriptures he was unable to find one due to his low stature in society. No Brahmin would let his shadow fall up on their home let alone teach him. So in desperation he immersed himself in water of the Ganges before dawn just near the steps. He knew a famous priest Ramananda came every day to take a pre dawn bath in Ganges. Ramananda in half light of dawn stepped on him and said " mara, mara " [ dead body, dead body - not Mara in Buddhism ]. Now Kabir heard it as " ram, ram " because his ears were covered by water. He accepted that as Guru bani [ discourse by Guru ] and began to meditate on the word Ram [ an avatar of Vishnu ]. Later he became a Saint to both Hindus and Muslims and is much revered even today.

Swami Vivekananda introduced Hinduism to the West in late 19th century. A fascinating and energetic monk he spent his whole life in study of various religions, meditation and social work. His teacher was Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa - a very revered modern Saint in Hinduism. Though a Brahmin, Sri Ramkrishna was not learned in the scriptures except he knew how to perform puja of a certain female deity. Other than that he had no knowledge of the vast tomes that Hinduism has produced. Yet the most learned Brahmins came to pay him respect every day due to his eminence and understanding of Hinduism.

It has to be noted how Pariyatti, Patipatti, Pativedha is interpreted in East. Pariyatti is like the wire which connects the battery of your car to the starter motor, Patipatti is like the electricity, Pativedha is like the turning of the starter motor.

All three are indispensable. But if the wire is torn or worn it can be patched up [ two bits on both sides with a 2 inch gap be patched with a new wire entangling both ], but if the battery does not have the amperage or the starter motor has worn brushes then the repair will take longer duration [ have to be a more thorough repair ]. If the wire is entirely lost then any piece of long flexible metal will do the job of conveying electricity [ even a GI wire held to the battery and motor will do nicely ]. But if the battery fails you cannot start the car by arranging a number of flashlight batteries in series to deliver 12 volts; it will not have the amperage. If the starter motor does not work you have to take it apart and fix it.

Kabir, Sri Ramkrishna and Mother Teresa lacked Pariyatti but they made up for it in Patipatti and Pativedha. There are many many people in India who know the Vedas and Vedanta inside out. But that does not grant on them status of a Saint [ by Saint I mean a person who is perhaps an Arahant; not a Saint in Vatican's description ]. It does not matter to Christ if you read Bible in Aramaic or Hebrew or Greek or Japanese. What matters to Christ is will you come to the aid of your fellow man - do you have it in you to embrace a leper and dress his wounds while he lies in your lap ? That is why I am sure Mother Teresa was warmly embraced by Christ and not those who endlessly dissect so and so interpretation of Bible if we take this into account and if we take that into account in Theology courses.

Patipatti and Pativedha is hugely stressed in East. No matter how much you learn the Suttas - it is your life that matters much more. It is how intrinsically you have intertwined your life and the Dhamma and not how much you learn from tomes that is important.

I have digressed from the original topic and will like to beg forgiveness of the moderator for my migration. I hope it caused no dilution of this sub Forum.

I really must return to my vow of silence now,

:namaste: Arijit

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby Holdan » Thu Jul 04, 2013 9:16 pm

BlackBird wrote:So we can see that nama is not a thing as such, but an aggregate of things...How does Name come to be all this crap? That I am not entirely set on, but my theory is that you have name for things you experience so it is the name of this and the name of that, all of which is experienced. You are naming the parts that make up experience.

What was a broad aggregate of five things become something extremely narrow & limited to one thing. When I name a spec of dust, which is essentially unimportant to me, as 'dust', feeling & intention are no significant here or exist at all. A child asks me: "what is the name of that tiny spec?", and I reply "dust". There is just basic perception & contact functioning here, with very little feeling, intention or even attention. Difficult to see the relevance of 'naming' in 'nama'. Naming would be what we plainly think & speak rather than what we intend or pay attention to.

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Re: Why Learn Pali

Postby Holdan » Thu Jul 04, 2013 9:32 pm

arijitmitter wrote:To come to a great example shared - Nama Rupa

Ven K S Dhammannanda has described it thus -
... Mind (nama) and matter (rupa). Mind consists of the combination of sensations, perceptions, volitional activities and consciousness. Matter consists of the combination of the four elements of solidity, fluidity, motion and heat.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu has described it thus -
And what [monks] is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are, [monks], called name-&-form. [ from elsewhere four great elements are earth, water, fire and air ]

Irrespective of the differences in translation one understands that " Nama refers to the psychological elements of the human being while Rupa refers to the physical " [ Wikipedia ]. And despite the difference in selection of words both translations adequately convey the meaning of the word.

Now one can individually translate vedanā, saññā, cetanā, phasso, manasikāro to check what definition has been given above. But is that not an addiction to an esoteric practice ? Any one of the two translations above adequately convey meaning of Nama Rupa. Can one really check it any better than two people who between them have more than 50 years of Pali learning ? And can that time not be better used in meditation ?

Arijit. As I read it, the nama-rupa is describing something to be identified in practise, which is also very subtle. A person may devote much time to meditation but they may never notice the nama-rupa the Pali scripture is pointing out.


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