Did the Buddha Know Pali?

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danieLion
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Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby danieLion » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:22 am

Did the Buddha know Pali?

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polarbuddha101
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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:29 am

There have been quite a few threads about this. From what I've gathered the Buddha did not speak Pali, rather he spoke some number of dialects very similar to pali and those dialects were brought together and became pali during the memorization and compilation of the suttas.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

danieLion
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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby danieLion » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:42 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:There have been quite a few threads about this. From what I've gathered the Buddha did not speak Pali, rather he spoke some number of dialects very similar to pali and those dialects were brought together and became pali during the memorization and compilation of the suttas.
If what you say is true, the claim that the Pali "Canon" preserves the words of the Buddha can't be true and phrases like, "The words of the Buddha have been preserved to this day in the Pali Canon"; or "the Buddha said in his own Pali words"; or "the Buddha defines x word/words in the Pali Canon as..." are meaningless or at least of low utility?

I'd be interested to see those other threads if anyone knows where to find them.

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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:50 am

danieLion wrote:
I'd be interested to see those other threads if anyone knows where to find them.

Do a search for Magadhi.
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: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:55 am

danieLion wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote:There have been quite a few threads about this. From what I've gathered the Buddha did not speak Pali, rather he spoke some number of dialects very similar to pali and those dialects were brought together and became pali during the memorization and compilation of the suttas.
If what you say is true, the claim that the Pali "Canon" preserves the words of the Buddha can't be true and phrases like, "The words of the Buddha have been preserved to this day in the Pali Canon"; or "the Buddha said in his own Pali words"; or "the Buddha defines x word/words in the Pali Canon as..." are meaningless or at least of low utility?

I'd be interested to see those other threads if anyone knows where to find them.


The Buddha's teachings have been preserved in the pali canon, not his word for word discussions and discourses. It's pretty obvious too when you see all those stock passages that are found word for word in hundreds of suttas. For example that stock passage that occurs often at the end of suttas where someone listening to the buddha proclaims "it is like a stone was upturned and you set it straight, you proclaimed the dhamma through many lines of reasoning, I know go to the blessed one, dhamma, sangha as a lay follower for life" (that is a rough paraphrase).

The suttas are like the condensed version of the buddha's actual discourses. I would like to think that the suttas honestly contain the message of the buddha with a good deal of integrity (although not without fallibility). As to the meaning of terms like sati, I think its pretty easy to get the gist of what is being said without having to delve into never ending debates about semantics. Clearly sati has remembrance as one of its characteristics and clearly one of its purposes is to keep the mind focused on some specific task, such as breath meditation, so as to allow one to be aware, in the present moment, of that task/object of meditation without the mind wandering off. Sati also has the task of realizing that the mind is off topic and reminding one to bring it back to the object so as to be aware of it in the present moment. At some point, if sati is really good and the mind is no longer wandering then distinguishing the difference between being constantly on the object due to constant remembrance and being constantly aware of the object is nearly pointless. They mean basically the same thing.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby danieLion » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:33 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:...the difference between being constantly on the object due to constant remembrance and being constantly aware of the object is nearly pointless. They mean basically the same thing.

I couldn't have wrote it better myself.

I have no issues with saying the Pali "Canon" is one of the best (if not the best) representatives of the Buddha's teachings we currently have, but this is different from saying that his teachings were preserved, let alone saying his very words were preserved.

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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby danieLion » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:43 am

tiltbillings wrote:
danieLion wrote:
I'd be interested to see those other threads if anyone knows where to find them.

Do a search for Magadhi.

If the Buddha spoke Magadhi (and not Pali) then their's no preservation. For the preservation claim to stick we'd need a Magadhi Canon (along with other requirements).

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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby Kare » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:52 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:There have been quite a few threads about this. From what I've gathered the Buddha did not speak Pali, rather he spoke some number of dialects very similar to pali and those dialects were brought together and became pali during the memorization and compilation of the suttas.


In a country with a continuum of several mutually understandable dialects, how many people go around speaking a number of them - except for comedians and imitation artists? If you want to convey a message or a teaching, there is no need to change dialect from one village to another like a chameleon. People will understand what you are saying anyway. Therefore I see this theory of the Buddha speaking several dialects, as one of the most stupid theories in this language debate.

We will never know if the Buddha spoke exactly Pali or some other dialect very close to Pali. Probably the latter is true. There is, however, a high probability for the Buddha's spoken dialect being so close to written Pali that there is no meaningful sense in differentiating between those two.
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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby Kare » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:54 am

danieLion wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
danieLion wrote:
I'd be interested to see those other threads if anyone knows where to find them.

Do a search for Magadhi.

If the Buddha spoke Magadhi (and not Pali) then their's no preservation. For the preservation claim to stick we'd need a Magadhi Canon (along with other requirements).


According to the Pali commentaries, that is exactly what we have. The language that we call Pali, the Pali commentaries call "Magadhi".
Mettāya,
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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby danieLion » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:57 am

Kare wrote:There is, however, a high probability for the Buddha's spoken dialect being so close to written Pali that there is no meaningful sense in differentiating between those two.

What numerical value would you (or have scholars) assigned to this probability?

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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby danieLion » Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:01 am

Danielion wrote:If the Buddha spoke Magadhi (and not Pali) then their's no preservation. For the preservation claim to stick we'd need a Magadhi Canon (along with other requirements).


Kare wrote:According to the Pali commentaries, that is exactly what we have. The language that we call Pali, the Pali commentaries call "Magadhi".

I'll take your word for that. Do you think this strengthens the preservation claim?

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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby Kare » Fri Jan 11, 2013 12:28 pm

danieLion wrote:
Kare wrote:There is, however, a high probability for the Buddha's spoken dialect being so close to written Pali that there is no meaningful sense in differentiating between those two.

What numerical value would you (or have scholars) assigned to this probability?


I do not assign any number to it. But from what I have seen of king Asoka's inscriptions and of fragments of Buddhist writings in Gandhari and other early dialects, the differences are not very large. It is rather unimportant if the Buddha pronounced a word as "kamma" or "karma".
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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby Kare » Fri Jan 11, 2013 12:28 pm

danieLion wrote:
Danielion wrote:If the Buddha spoke Magadhi (and not Pali) then their's no preservation. For the preservation claim to stick we'd need a Magadhi Canon (along with other requirements).


Kare wrote:According to the Pali commentaries, that is exactly what we have. The language that we call Pali, the Pali commentaries call "Magadhi".

I'll take your word for that. Do you think this strengthens the preservation claim?


In my view: Yes.
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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:47 pm

The concordance between the Gandhari texts, the Chinese texts, the available Sanskrit texts, and the Pali texts is quite encouraging as well, with respect to preservation of the heartwood. This doesn't apply to very much of the different Vinayas, however, and it applies not at all to the differing Abhidhammas. The "Canon", as a term, blurs all this.
    "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: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby pulga » Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:47 pm

Kare wrote:I do not assign any number to it. But from what I have seen of king Asoka's inscriptions and of fragments of Buddhist writings in Gandhari and other early dialects, the differences are not very large. It is rather unimportant if the Buddha pronounced a word as "kamma" or "karma".


Pali does seem to be quite close to the Jain Prakrit of the Acaranga Sutta. Do the Jains believe that Mahavira, the Buddha's contemporary, spoke Magadhi as well?

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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby Kamran » Sat Jan 12, 2013 3:21 am

I understand that there was no writing system during the Buddha's time, and that the Canon has so many contradictions that it looks like ideas from the time that it was finally put in writing may have made their way into the Canon.
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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby danieLion » Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:14 am

Kamran wrote:...the Canon has so many contradictions...

In your opinion which are the top three contradictions?

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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby Way~Farer » Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:54 am

There was a good article published in Tricycle last year, Whose Buddhism is Truest? At the time I was enrolled in Buddhist Studies at an Australian university, and the article was distributed by the Pali scholar there, who is quite well-regarded, so I think it is a pretty good analysis of the current state of knowledge of this question.

Beware, however, that the search for 'the real Buddhism' or 'the authentic Buddhism' can also be a bit of a trap in its own right. I think the intention behind the teaching always was for those who hear it, to simply practice it and observe it to the best of their ability.

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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby Mr Man » Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:00 am

I'm not sure if the Buddha spoke pali but is it really relevant? Our own languages have changed and our ways of interpreting language have changed. Meanings evolve, develop and degrade as they move through time. The ability to interpret a passage of language from over 2000 years ago, as it was interpreted at that time is no longer possible. The tool has changed. But is an "authentic" rendering of the Buddha's teaching as an accurate historical document that important to practitioners? If the fruit tastes sweet.

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Re: Did the Buddha Know Pali?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:22 am

sunyavadin wrote:There was a good article published in Tricycle last year, Whose Buddhism is Truest? At the time I was enrolled in Buddhist Studies at an Australian university, and the article was distributed by the Pali scholar there, who is quite well-regarded, so I think it is a pretty good analysis of the current state of knowledge of this question.
Here is a discussion of that article that happened here and it goes for a couple of pages:
viewtopic.php?f=29&t=10218&start=40#p160505
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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