Becoming a Pali Scholar

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby Coyote » Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:02 pm

Many thanks Dmytro and Jeffrey for the course suggestions. Much appreciated.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby bharadwaja » Sat Mar 29, 2014 9:29 pm

I have read the chapter by Norman, although I was not able to access it from the Jōdo Shinshū site. However it is available on books.google.com. The article is chapter five of this text.

Try this URL (paper V)- http://www.shin-ibs.edu/academics/_forum/v5.php

Norman's contention is not that the language(s) that formed the basis for the written language of Pāḷi and the early oral recessions of the canon lacked these consonants, but that the early orthography used to write it down did.

Absolutely, I am only taking into account the facts about the original script (and not his theories about the language itself) from Norman's article.

I accept your claim that there was no change to the spoken language between the imperfectly written pre-Pali text, and the Pali texts that we currently possess i.e. the evolution was merely orthographic and not linguistic.

What he has shown is that the non-phonetic script originally used to write down the canon omitted double-consonants which are found in Pali (among other imperfections). Let us call this early written form (which lacks the geminates found in Pali) the pre-Pali form.

Therefore we have the following known forms for the Pali word Dhamma (listed in chronological order):

Old-Indic form: Dharma (all pre-Buddhist literature)
Pre-Pali form: Dhama (furthest away from the Old-Indic form)
Pali form: Dhamma (close to Old-Indic)
Post-Pali (i.e. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit) form: Dharma (virtually identical to Old-Indic)

Therefore we see a trend between the Buddha's parinibbana and the start of the common era. Initially there was the Old-Indic form present in all pre-Buddhist literature where middle indic is completely absent. With the advent of writing in India, which happens to almost coincide with the the Buddha's parinibbana, we have the first written texts (i.e. the Buddhist canon), that too in the pre-pali form (which we now associate with the early Kharosthi texts, now called the Gandhari texts). However we have not found a copy of the entire canon from this written stage, all we have are a few suttas usually from some of the oldest parts of the canon (i.e. the sutta nipata), such as the Khaggavisana sutta etc.

The canon then either naturally evolves (or is artificially recast) into the pali form that we have today as the script evolves further and eventually becomes fully phonetic and capable of even expressing the Old-Indic conjunct consonants. This phonetic script is called the Brahmi script, which becomes the de-facto standard for both Pali and Old-Indic texts. The Kharosthi script also evolves to the extent of representing the conjunt consonants, but it still has limitations in displaying vowel length distinctions etc, and eventually is abandoned.

You said there was no change to the spoken language, and the evolution from pre-Pali to Pali was restricted to the script, which I accepted above. However I would like to extend the same logic both sides i.e. to before the pre-Pali stage and also to the post-Pali stage. I believe therefore that the language of the canon that was imperfectly written in the pre-Pali form, was probably spoken old-Indic. The spoken language never became middle-Indic, the existence of the intermediate forms i.e. pre-Pali, Pali etc. were due to introduction of writing and the evolution of orthography. This evidently completed a full circle by reaching the Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit stage where the written form became virtually identical to Old-Indic.

Writing must have been first adopted in India by the Sangha as they evidently had no independent oral traditon to entrust their suttas to (considering also the sheer size of the canon). The canon therefore was probably always a written canon. Once the script had become fully phonetic, and Old-Indic could now be written phonetically, all new texts were read phonetically as they were written. The Pali texts (which earlier had not been read phonetically due to being in a non-phonetic script) now in the phonetic script were also read phonetically, giving rise to a new language, once called Paisachi, now called Pali.

However, the early orthographic versions were tied to a parallel oral tradition so even though the lack of indication of length for consonants and vowels allowed for the ambiguous readings of some items, the oral tradition was able to clarify these.

We don't know about that, the existence of such an independent oral tradition is entirely speculative. Norman assumes that they must have existed since he claims there is a word "bhanaka" in the commentarial literature which may have meant such oral reciters. However, these bhanakas, if they were indeed reciters of the suttas, cannot have formed an independent oral tradition so late in the canon's history i.e. nearly a 1000 years since the suttas were first recited, see below.

What he proposes is that there was a rupture at some point where the oral tradition ceased while the written tradition continued. When length was introduced to the orthography the ambiguous readings were more problematic for the scribes and some errors were introduced.


This means the rupture i.e. the demise of the independent oral tradition (if it was independent to begin with) happened when the written canon was at the the pre-Pali stage, since Pali has evidently inherited the ambiguities of that stage.

Therefore the word bhanaka found in the commentaries, if it referred to oral reciters, must not have meant an independent tradition, for such a tradition (assuming it did exist) evidently died out even before the pre-Pali text became our current Pali-canon.

I asked for proofs. All you present is just empty speculations.


That the canon was first reduced to writing in the 1st century BCE itself is an empty speculation. We don't have conclusive proofs for it.

As I said above, there exists a pre-Pali written form of suttas, which shows written forms that are older than Ashoka's rock edicts at Girnar. The pre-Pali written canon which must have once existed in its complete form must therefore pre-date Ashoka (3rd century BCE).
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby Qianxi » Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:57 pm

The idea that the Pali suttas were not passed down orally for several generations before being written down contradicts lots of evidence.

The fact that the suttas contain lots of details of the daily life and possessions of monks but never mention writing or writing implements; the fact that the suttas emphasise listening, memorisation and group recitation..

The fact that the suttas are composed in a style designed to aid memorisation (not Vedic style verse memorisation where you are not required to understand the text, but a memorisation technique tailored to adult reciters who would be expected to understand). Various alliterations, repetitions and set phrases, 'waxing syllable' patterns.. see here for more http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... nsions.pdf

In fact copying down the unwieldy repetitions in early Buddhist texts is a very inefficient use of precious writing materials. it's hard to imagine them being composed as written texts in that way. They must have been already fixed in oral form and the scribes felt they did not have the authority to change anything.

Comparing different versions of early texts it is possible to tell the copyists mistakes from the reciters mistakes. A sutta remembered and recited incorrectly might take a familiar route from one set paragraph 'pericope' to another, when the logic of the sutta actually demands a slightly less common combination of pericopes. Such errors are clearly mistakes of memorisation and idea association. Scribal errors on the other hand usually involve skipping lines or misreading letters.

It simply is possible for communities to jointly memorise vast texts and preserve them across generations just as accurately (or more!) than if they were scratched on perishable bits of bark and piled in a mouldy room. Even down to the 8th century AD there were Indian and Central Asian monks who came to China with a whole vinaya memorised, and then recited it for translation into Chinese.
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby Dmytro » Sun Mar 30, 2014 5:28 am

Here's what the modern scholars actually suggest.

Oskar von Hinüber writes in detail about the supposed absolutive endings and other hypothetical earlier Pali forms, which would conform to general phonetic pattern of Middle Indo-Aryan:

Pāli as an Artificial Language

http://www.indologica.com/volumes/vol10 ... inuber.pdf

Pāli: How Do We See It Eighty Years After Geiger’s Grammar?

http://books.google.com/books?id=dQTawXTc6vcC&pg=PA459

pp. 459-469

Pāli and Paiśācī as Variants of Buddhist Middle Indic

http://books.google.com/books?id=dQTawXTc6vcC&pg=PA505

pp. 505-521

Daniel Boucher quotes Norman and Bechert:

"K. R. Norman, for example, has argued: "It cannot be emphasized too much that all the versions of canonical Hinayana Buddhist texts which we possess are translations, and even the earliest we possess are translations of some still earlier version, now lost."(123) Heinz Bechert, on the other hand, has suggested that translation - a linguistic transfer between mutually unintelligible languages or dialects - is too strong a characterization of this process:
Some scholars believed that this transformation was a real "translation" of texts which at that time already existed as written literary texts. Others think - and I agree with them - that the transposition was no formalized translation. It was another kind of transformation from one dialect into another dialect, that took place in the course of a tradition, which was still an oral tradition, but had already entered the process of being formalized linguistically . . . .(124)

However, these positions are not necessarily as sharply opposed as they might first appear. Norman has shown that these "translations" were often carried out by scribes who applied certain phonetic rules mechanically.(125)"

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-EPT/daniel.htm

So essentially, scholars are talking about a probable "transposition" of certain consonant clusters - mostly the conversion of -(t)tā or -ṭṭha absolutive endings to -tvā and -svā.

In practice, this would mean minor differences in some words, and the supposed earlier form of Pali would be similar to the language of Hathigumpha inscription, as Kenneth Norman writes:

"It has been claimed in the case of Pali that as there are resemblances between it and the Girnar dialect of the Asokan inscriptions, and also between it and the language of the Hathigumpha inscriptions, Pali must have been the language of one or other of these two areas. A careful examination of the language of these inscriptions shows that Pali is not identical with either of them, and there is, moreover, some doubt about the language of the Girnar version of the Asokan inscriptions, since it is possible that it represents, in part at least, the scribe's attempt to convert the Eastern dialect he must have received from Pataliputra into what he thought was appropriate to the region in which the edict was being promulgated, rather than the actual dialect of that region. The language of the Hathigumpha inscription, although it agrees with Pali in the retention of most intervocalic consonants and in the nominative singular in -o, nevertheless differs in that the absolutive ending is -(t)tā, and with two doubtful exceptions there are no consonant groups containing -r-.

While it is not impossible that there existed in India in the third century B. C. an unattested dialect of Middle Indo-Aryan which had all the features of Pali, the fact that some of the consonant clusters found in Pali are unhistoric and must therefore represent incorrect attempts at backformation, e.g. disvā (which cannot be from dṛṣṭva) and atraja (which cannot be from ātmaja), makes it more likely that by the third century B.C. the dialect of the canonical texts of the Theravadins conformed to the general pattern of Middle Indo-Aryan dialects of that time, and all consonant clusters had either been assimilated or resolved. It is probable that this represented the form of the language of the Theravadin canon at the time of the reign of Asoka, which was perhaps the lingua franca of the Buddhists of Eastern India, and not very different from the language of the Hathigumpha inscriptions."

http://ahandfulofleaves.files.wordpress ... n_1983.pdf p. 5

For more details about the Hathigumpha inscription see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hathigumpha_inscription
http://gujaratisbs.webs.com/Abstracts%2 ... 20More.pdf
http://orissa.gov.in/e-magazine/Journal ... f/9-10.pdf
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby bharadwaja » Sun Mar 30, 2014 5:16 pm

Qianxi wrote:The idea that the Pali suttas were not passed down orally for several generations before being written down contradicts lots of evidence
.

Nope, in fact most of the earliest written texts of India are Buddhist. That apart, you conflate the period of the buddha with the period of the suttas.

Most or all prose suttas were composed some time after the buddha's parinibbana (when writing was in use), the only suttas that evidently existed from before the Buddha's parinibbana are in verse.

Therefore the only suttas that could have potentially been passed down orally from the Buddha's mouth in an unbroken oral tradition are poetry. The evidence from the canon is tangible -- when the Buddha asks a newly ordained householder Soṇa to recite the Dhamma, Soṇa recites the verses of the Atthaka vagga in a manner that wins the Buddha's appreciation, see http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The poetry from the Atthakavagga is from the earliest part of the canon - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atthakavag ... ayanavagga

Only such poetry was capable of verbatim memorization & recitation, and this could be compared to the vedic poetry of the Brahmins in that time which was also similarly memorized and recited without the use of writing.

The fact that the suttas contain lots of details of the daily life and possessions of monks but never mention writing or writing implements; the fact that the suttas emphasise listening, memorisation and group recitation..
.

Writing was not used in the Buddha's own lifetime. So it is not surprising that the suttas do not mention the existence of writing in the Buddha's lifetime.

The suttas do not emphasize memorization and group recitation of the canon (or parts of it) as far as I know.

The fact that the suttas are composed in a style designed to aid memorisation (not Vedic style verse memorisation where you are not required to understand the text, but a memorisation technique tailored to adult reciters who would be expected to understand). Various alliterations, repetitions and set phrases, 'waxing syllable' patterns.. see here for more http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... nsions.pdf


The tipitaka itself means ti (three) pitaka (baskets). The canonical texts were put into 3 baskets i.e. physical baskets holding manuscripts of the canon. Nikaya means volume/collection, and the description of the nikayas as digha (long), majjhima (medium length), khuddaka (short), samyutta (grouped/connected), anguttara (increasing by one) indicate significant scribal & literary activity, measuring the length of written suttas, reclassifying them according to content, redacting the suttas into well ordered groupings i.e. the formation of the authentic canon (meant to exclude non-authentic suttas from being included) which cannot have happened except if the collection had been written down and was physically available as manuscripts in 3 baskets, rather than simply in the minds of monks.

However when they were first written, they were obviously recited once orally by someone (Ananda?), using stock phrases etc in many suttas as the article points out, but this first recital of the suttas (or the use of stock phrases or repetitions when reciting many suttas one after another) is not the same as (or indicative of the existence of) an "oral tradition".

Not even Ananda could have recited them back again verbatim, and the idea that bhikkus had unlimited photographic memories to do so is clearly unrealistic, they didn't even have the linguistic tools to start an independent oral tradition, unlike the Brahmanical oral tradition which had the auxiliary sciences called vedangas for support. The prose suttas must have been written down if they had to be preserved verbatim.

In fact copying down the unwieldy repetitions in early Buddhist texts is a very inefficient use of precious writing materials. it's hard to imagine them being composed as written texts in that way.


We don't know whether the earliest writing materials (birch bark & palm leaves, and metal nails/styluses used to inscribe the texts on the bark/leaves) were precious or not, they may have been the most common and naturally available writing materials.

Repetitions in the manuscripts were marked as "peyyala" (literally meaning "repetition") or abbreviated to "pe", so the reader had to assume a repetition if he/she found "peyyala" in a manuscript. This is similar to our use of the word "idem" or its abbreviation "id." in western literature.

It simply is possible for communities to jointly memorise vast texts and preserve them across generations just as accurately (or more!) than if they were scratched on perishable bits of bark and piled in a mouldy room.


When Buddhaghosa wrote the Sumangalavilasini, the Manorathapurani etc in the 5th century AD (i.e. about 1000 years after the Buddha's time), there was no independent oral tradition in existence, nor could anyone speak Pali natively being so far removed geographically and temporally from 5th C. BCE Magadha. It was only the written texts literally copied word by word (mistakes included) from earlier perishable manuscripts that ensured the existence of the canon and indeed the religion in his time. The same is true today.

Even down to the 8th century AD there were Indian and Central Asian monks who came to China with a whole vinaya memorised, and then recited it for translation into Chinese.


This is not true, the monks who came to India from China took physical manuscripts back with them, we even have some of those manuscripts today, see http://www.indologie.uni-muenchen.de/do ... kestan.pdf
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 30, 2014 8:33 pm

arhat wrote: . . .
You are putting a great deal of energy into all of this, and much of what you are saying is scholarly speculation, not fact. What is your actual point here and does any of it actually matter for one's practice of the Dhamma? Or is this all of just academic interest?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby Qianxi » Sun Mar 30, 2014 10:51 pm

arhat wrote:the monks who came to India from China took physical manuscripts back with them

Yes mostly, and increasingly as the centuries went by but for example the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya was translated in the early fifth century based on a text recited by Buddhayaśas from memory; the Sarvastivada Vinaya was translated at around the same time - two thirds of it was translated according to a text recited from memory by Puṇyatāra (who then died), the rest from a manuscript brought to China by Dharmaruci.

Anyway, that was just a brief example to show what feats of memorisation were possible (there are lots more examples, eg. modern monks in Myanmar and Sri Lanka http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=jf-e ... ve&f=false ), but I don't think of the memorisation in early Buddhism as the work of individual masters as in the later period. In the early period the workload of memorisation would have been shared by a whole community.

The suttas do not emphasize memorization and group recitation of the canon (or parts of it) as far as I know.

There is this:
DN 29 "Therefore, Cunda, all you to whom I have taught these truths that I have realised by super-knowledge, should come together and recite them, setting meaning beside meaning and expression beside expression, without dissension, in order that this holy life may continue... And thus you should train yourselves, being assembled in harmony and without dissension. If a fellow in the holy life quotes the Dhamma in the assembly..." there follow instructions on how to resolve differences in recollection of the wording and understanding of the meaning.

DN 33 "[the exemplary monk] has learnt much, and bears much in mind and retains what he has learnt. In these teachings...he is deeply learned, he remembers them, recites them, reflects on them.." "These are the ten things which have been perfectly set forth by the Lord who knows and sees. So we should all recite them together without disagreement, so that this holy life may be long-lasting and established for a long time to come..."

MN 103 dispute about the phrasing of the teaching. Oral dispute, oral resolution - the new wording - is to be remembered, not written down. "While you are training in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, two bhikkhus might make different assertions about the higher Dhamma. Now if you should think thus: ‘These venerable ones differ about both the meaning and the phrasing,’ then whichever bhikkhu you think is the more reasonable should be approached and addressed thus.."

The tipitaka itself means ti (three) pitaka (baskets)

Yes, but the suttas don't refer to the tipitaka, they refer to the Dhamma and the Vinaya, or the Dhamma, Vinaya and Matikas.

My basic premise is that people in the premodern world were even worse than we are at imagining how people lived in the past. Whenever they described the past they couldn't avoid anachronisms. I just think it very unlikely that a community in which writing (or the tipitaka!) was very important would silently agree to not talk about it for the sake of creating a realistic vision of the Buddha's time. In fact if the suttas were largely composed a few decades after the Buddha, and they may have been as far as I know, they probably contain lots of subtle anachronisms that we can't detect. In Mahayana sutras its a bit more obvious: all those references to writing, stupas etc.
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby bharadwaja » Sun Mar 30, 2014 11:31 pm

tiltbillings wrote:You are putting a great deal of energy into all of this, and much of what you are saying is scholarly speculation, not fact. What is your actual point here and does any of it actually matter for one's practice of the Dhamma? Or is this all of just academic interest?

If you believe, like I do, that the canon matters above everything else (to the theravada tradition) to acquire a true grasp of the Dhamma, it is absolutely vital to understand what is said in the canon properly. What is said in the canon can only be understood if it is translated (i.e. interpreted) correctly. For that we need to know the language of the canon and its history. There are hundreds of important Pali words that are poorly interpreted in our native languages for want of a historical and philological understanding, and it distorts our grasp of the Dhamma in significant ways.

So understanding the Dhamma correctly is the point, a proper understanding of Pali and the canon is the means of achieving a correct grasp over the Dhamma, and this is hopefully not simply of academic interest. Feel free to ignore if something sounds irrelevant.

Qianxi wrote:DN 29 ...
DN 33 ...
MN 103 ...


Thanks for the references, I stand corrected. I've checked these suttas in Pali. The examples you have cited above are about chanting poetry (literally "singing" them --- "saṅgāyitabbaṃ"), and correctly parsing the the forms of words therein to understand the meaning of the Dhamma from them. The examples do not describe memorizing and regurgitating prose passages.

I'm NOT saying the sangha never talked about Dhamma in prose during the Buddha's time, but that such dhamma talks were not verbatim memorizations and repetitions of the buddha's discourses. Only poetry was (if at all) memorized and quoted verbatim, and I have already mentioned an example of a poetry (Atthakavagga) recital by Sona to the Buddha above.

Qianxi wrote:I just think it very unlikely that a community in which writing (or the tipitaka!) was very important would silently agree to not talk about it for the sake of creating a realistic vision of the Buddha's time.


Both the newly composed prose suttas of the tipitaka, and the art of writing, were evidently very new to the Sangha, during the first 50-100 years after the Buddha's parinibbana. They sutta collection and the art of writing cannot have been as important to those who had lived with the Buddha, as they have been to later tradition.

In any case the existence of an oral tradition for prose is irrelevant, for it died out in the pre-Pali stage when the suttas were written with single consonants (eg. "udaka ramaputa") where later they were converted to the current Pali form with double consonants (eg. "uddaka ramaputta") etc. Thus the oral tradition has not resolved the mistakes in the written texts that still exist, and date from the time of the earliest written form.
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby binocular » Mon Mar 31, 2014 6:35 am

arhat wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:You are putting a great deal of energy into all of this, and much of what you are saying is scholarly speculation, not fact. What is your actual point here and does any of it actually matter for one's practice of the Dhamma? Or is this all of just academic interest?

If you believe, like I do, that the canon matters above everything else (to the theravada tradition) to acquire a true grasp of the Dhamma, it is absolutely vital to understand what is said in the canon properly. What is said in the canon can only be understood if it is translated (i.e. interpreted) correctly. For that we need to know the language of the canon and its history. There are hundreds of important Pali words that are poorly interpreted in our native languages for want of a historical and philological understanding, and it distorts our grasp of the Dhamma in significant ways.

So understanding the Dhamma correctly is the point, a proper understanding of Pali and the canon is the means of achieving a correct grasp over the Dhamma, and this is hopefully not simply of academic interest.

Of course. Although I think this also makes for a scary prospect - in the sense that one has to study and learn so much. Scary at least for those of us who are used to (and have gotten comfortable with) relying on Dhamma sources in one modern language, esp. English.
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby Kare » Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:03 am

arhat wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:You are putting a great deal of energy into all of this, and much of what you are saying is scholarly speculation, not fact. What is your actual point here and does any of it actually matter for one's practice of the Dhamma? Or is this all of just academic interest?

If you believe, like I do, that the canon matters above everything else (to the theravada tradition) to acquire a true grasp of the Dhamma, it is absolutely vital to understand what is said in the canon properly. What is said in the canon can only be understood if it is translated (i.e. interpreted) correctly. For that we need to know the language of the canon and its history. There are hundreds of important Pali words that are poorly interpreted in our native languages for want of a historical and philological understanding, and it distorts our grasp of the Dhamma in significant ways.

So understanding the Dhamma correctly is the point, a proper understanding of Pali and the canon is the means of achieving a correct grasp over the Dhamma, and this is hopefully not simply of academic interest. Feel free to ignore if something sounds irrelevant.


A highly commendable view. Now you just need to stop clinging to speculations and to get the facts right. BTW - where did you get your degree in Pali?
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby daverupa » Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:22 pm

arhat wrote:Only poetry was (if at all) memorized and quoted verbatim


That would be gāthā; there is also sutta & geya to consider.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Becoming a Pali Scholar

Postby bharadwaja » Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:25 am

Of course. Although I think this also makes for a scary prospect - in the sense that one has to study and learn so much. Scary at least for those of us who are used to (and have gotten comfortable with) relying on Dhamma sources in one modern language, esp. English.


There is nothing wrong with English as a language to study the Dhamma. That does not mean the translations we choose to study are authentic. Relying mostly or wholly on translations can only take one to a certain distance, i.e. you will know how the chocolate looks but not how it tastes, which is really the point. If you like Buddhism through the translation, the real stuff is even more interesting, so I would suggest all serious students of Buddhism to consider Pali. You wouldn't have gotten to Theravada had you not had an intention to know the "real/original" Buddhism, so why stop with translations?

In my personal experience, I really started comprehending Buddhism (i.e. according to the canon) only after I started understanding Pali and the Buddha's cultural background, until then I simply thought that by reading a good translation (or a translation which I liked) I had an 80-90% understanding of what I was reading about, but now I feel my understanding then was more like 25%.

Then once I started getting a hang of Pali, I started detecting flaws in most translations. Every translation of a sutta involves the personal interpretations of the translator, your understanding is really at the mercy of the translator. Sometimes the translator appears to (mis)translate with an agenda of imposing their interpretations/theories on you.

The Buddha expressed something in his language, the sutta composer wrote what they understood of it, the translator puts their spin into the translation and we understand the translation based on our own experiences. Distortion of the Dhamma happens at every stage of this process. We can get reasonably close to an authentic understanding of the canon by eliminating the translator. An authentic understanding of the canon should impel us towards an even better understanding of the Dhamma. :namaste:

That would be gāthā; there is also sutta & geya to consider.


That distinction itself is from the later tradition.

where did you get your degree in Pali?


I don't have a degree in Pali
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