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The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali - Dhamma Wheel

The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
danieLion
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The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Postby danieLion » Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:49 pm

A little Pali can be useful, but knowing Pali well is not necessary to practice dhamma or mindfulness and is usually a waste of effort. It's generally better to use that energy on examining direct experience.

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polarbear101
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby polarbear101 » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:15 pm

I would agree that learning a bunch of Pali is unnecessary to progress down the path but I wouldn't call it a waste of effort. Knowing Pali well gives you a more well rounded perspective on what the buddha taught whereas when reading translations you're inevitably going to miss some of the meaning. The key is proper time management so that you don't spend so much time learning Pali that your practice suffers.

:namaste:
"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: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:25 pm


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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:13 am

Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta


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polarbear101
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby polarbear101 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:30 am

"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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Mr Man
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Mr Man » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:34 am

Hi danieLion
Do you speak any foreign languages? Concepts can unfold in very different ways in different languages . Language conditions certain ways of thinking. I'm sure new levels of meaning can be found in understanding pali within its now limited context. I would't see pali as a necessity but it would be nice to read sutta in pali.

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SDC
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby SDC » Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:21 am

I'll play...

Were it not for the vagueness of the English translations, I would have no reason to pursue the Pali.

You are very fortunate to not have this issue. Hopefully I'll get there eventually.

nem
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby nem » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:32 am

I've been going through Bhikkhu Bodhi's systematic study of the Majjhima Nikaya. Of course, BB has produced a translation of Majjhima Nikaya that many of us refer to. But even he states in his systematic study of his expansion and revision based on Nanamoli's translation,today known as The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, that some of the Pali words are translated there into English in ways that don't convey the whole meaning. For example "taints" is used to describe āsavas. So, BB talks about them at length.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu translates āsavas as "fermentations", which is totally confusing to me, in my understanding of the word fermentation. Are we making beer in the mind, or ruminating about something or? :tongue: These are the contexts where the word fermentation is used in American English, where I live. Fermenting beer, fermenting or brewing troubles in the mind. But āsava means none of that. Just look at wikipedia and how many words in English someone took to explain āsava there. Several hundred English words. Now, if I was just reading suttas, I'd pass over fermentations and ignore it, not having any idea what is being spoken of for lack of cultural context that matches up.

I attend weekly dhamma talks, and we never ever get too far into the talk before there is a discussion where a bhante needs to explain a Pali word and all that it means. If I was sitting in the house reading an English translation I'd never learn these things. So..yes there seems to be value in learning Pali so you don't get steered the wrong way by misunderstanding something that is taken out of the cultural context of Pali and translated in a way that doesn't convey the intended meaning.

Also noted, in Ajahn Sumedho's teachings he frequently refers to the fact that we are limited by our cultural frame of reference and our language. Follow that...if we are studying Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation, well we are also getting his translation through the filter of Jung, Freud and all the other things that were steeped into his mind from the culture that he grew up in, and lives in today.

Good point, Mr Man. When I was learning some foreign languages, I found they have concepts that don't even exist in English. For example in Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese. None of the native English speakers that I know, would even want to convey some of the meanings of the words as they exist in these other languages. For example, saudades in Portuguese, means more or less, I am really, really longing to see you, thinking about old times, can't wait to see you again, need to see you. All of that, in one Portuguese word. It is a word that is way too "needy" for people in my culture to want to express. Here in my country, we wouldn't use such a word if we had it. Everyone wants to be independent, and they don't need anyone, aren't that attached to anyone. So, it's all about culture. Pali too, I think, and understanding the religious culture that uses it, in the tradition as practiced in certain parts of Asia.
Last edited by nem on Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:04 am, edited 2 times in total.

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tiltbillings
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:00 am


Nyana
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Nyana » Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:11 am


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Ben
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Ben » Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:29 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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reflection
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby reflection » Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:47 am

For some it may be useful, for others more like a distraction. There are people who think knowing the scriptures is knowing the Dhamma. They seem to think intellectual knowledge is the same as -or a part of- wisdom. I'd say that is something to be careful for when studying the suttas in pali. Because of course, it's not like that. Someone who didn't read any sutta in his life in whatever language, may have more wisdom than one who can translate them all.

It's also funny how people with a lot of knowledge about pali still come up with very different interpretations. So knowing pali is not a guaranteed way of coming to a better understanding of what the Buddha taught, which is beyond words.

But of course it can be useful for reasons already stated. Myself, I'm very grateful for people who took the effort to study the language and share their knowledge, but I don't see myself doing the same.

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manas
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby manas » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:41 am

Although only a beginner in the study of Pali, I can vouch for it's usefulness in coming to a clearer understanding of the meaning and intent of the suttas. Even at this early stage, it is helping me greatly in clearing up doubts. I highly recommend it's study, to whatever extent one is able to or wishes. Although not essential, it is highly beneficial, ime.

:anjali:
Last edited by manas on Sat Apr 06, 2013 1:06 am, edited 2 times in total.
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

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m0rl0ck
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby m0rl0ck » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:59 am

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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daverupa
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby daverupa » Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:27 am

I have found a study of Pali useful with respect to some knotty phrases with differing translations & clarifying some things which seem easily lost in translation (e.g. "...secluded from sensuality" v. "...sensual pleasures" & distinguishing vinnana, mano, and citta where "mind" and other blanket terms can obscure the differentiation).

It has also contributed to my connotative understanding of certain terms, such as nimitta, helping to prevent certain misunderstandings.

Finally, it has helped to highlight the presence of at least a few significant editorial fingerprints in the Nikayas, such as that which marks the mundane/supramundane distinction, which is very interesting.

All of this has been a great boon.

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Alex123
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Alex123 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:51 pm

"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

Buckwheat
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Buckwheat » Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:53 pm

Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

danieLion
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:32 am


danieLion
Posts: 1947
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:36 am


danieLion
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:43 am



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