The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:46 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:
danieLion wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote: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.

Pali itself is a translation of the Buddhavacana; and as Wittgenstein taught us, "The meaning of a word is its use in the language" (the language being the one the current speakers are using).


polarbuddha101 wrote:1) It isn't accurate to say that Pali is a translation of the Buddhavacana.
If the Buddha didn't speak Pali, translation took place at some point.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:47 am

tiltbillings wrote:...it is worth using multiple translations of a text when available.
Yes, there's much value in this. IMO, more than learning Pali.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:50 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Without learning the foundational principles of the teachings and the path structure of how to apply the teachings, examining direct experience can lead in any number of directions which may be quite fruitless.
And for some, even adtger they've learned the foundations, produce no fruit.

Ñāṇa wrote:But now that we have full translations of almost the entire Tipiṭaka and a number of large post-canonical treatises, there's no pressing need to understand Pāli in order to learn the foundational principles and the path structure of how to apply the teachings. And in addition to this, we also have access to a fairly large number of modern studies, commentaries, dhamma talks, etc., primarily in English or English translation.

Exactly.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:52 am

Mr Man wrote: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.

I took two years of Spanish as an undergrad. If I had time master other languages now, it would be Latin, then Pali.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:53 am

reflection wrote: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.

Well said. Yes, it's hilarious.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:56 am

Alex123 wrote:
danieLion wrote: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.


You are right. Did Buddha spoke Pali? Did he always use pali when speaking to anyone from any republic? Did everyone always speak Pali to Buddha?
Considering the diversity of languages and dialect in territory that we call India... I think the answer is obvious.

Also, how do we know that translations of certain keywords (such as anatta) into English is correct? Please check my post.

Also, even though the translation can technically be correct, how do we know the exact sense that Buddha used the word that he did? He lived in ancient India 5th Century BC. Their culture was very different from today. Words may have had alternative or other meanings for the culture that He lived in.

:goodpost:
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:00 am

danieLion wrote:
polarbuddha101 wrote:Knowing Pali well gives you a more well rounded perspective on what the buddha taught...



Compared to what? Do you know "fluent" Pali? Have you read all the translations? You're just repeating an idea you heard without knowing for yourself.

polarbuddha101 wrote:...whereas when reading translations you're inevitably going to miss some of the meaning.
The meaining? Are you saying the texts, Pali or otherwise, have their very own meaning?


The suttas have an intended meaning. The words in the suttas had a certain meaning 2,500 years ago and learning the Pali and understanding Indian history and culture at that time can help us understand the intended meaning and what specific words meant at that time. The fact is that the meaning that I or anyone else read into the suttas could differ from the intended meaning of the Buddha when he actually gave a specific discourse and so learning Pali could, to some extent, help a person come closer to understanding the intended meaning.

I only know a few words of Pali. I'm just repeating what my own musing in the philosophy of language tells me which of course happens to not have arisen out of a vacuum, just as you are stating an opinion that did not arise out of a vacuum. I've read alot of Ven Bodhi's and Ven Thanissaro's translations and translations of some suttas from various other authors as well and I think that learning Pali would still give me a more well rounded perspective than just reading english translations.

You seem to have avoided my main points about the conceptual frameworks that languages are based upon and my example of a german to dutch versus a german to navajo translation. If you understand those points then I don't think we'll be in any disagreement. Also, I'm not saying learning Pali is necessary to understand what the Buddha taught or to realize his teachings for oneself, I'm just saying it could be helpful.

:anjali:
"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: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:05 am

So, are the (Chinese) Agamas inferior to the Pali manuscripts because the latter are "closer" to the language(s) the Buddha spoke?

Didn't the Buddha tell his followers that when they encountered other cultures to teach the dhamma in their language?

Do we have any records of the Buddha making any rules about which language his teachings should be preserved in?
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:23 am

danieLion wrote:So, are the (Chinese) Agamas inferior to the Pali manuscripts because the latter are "closer" to the language(s) the Buddha spoke?

Didn't the Buddha tell his followers that when they encountered other cultures to teach the dhamma in their language?

Do we have any records of the Buddha making any rules about which language his teachings should be preserved in?


1) I think the Chinese Agamas are very useful for sutta comparisons, gauging the authenticity of certain suttas, learning about early buddhism, but I do think more of the intended meaning of the discourses of the Buddha will be preserved in the Pali than in Chinese in virtue of the fact that Chinese is built upon a conceptual framework further removed from the one that the Buddha was working with when he taught dhamma.

2) Yes he did and I think that's very important, I certainly wouldn't know anything about the dhamma otherwise.

3) Not that I know of, and I think having english (or whatever language one speaks) translations is very important but that doesn't mean I think we should get rid of the Pali, because I think the Pali language can help inform us as to what the Buddha actually meant.

Once again, I'm not saying knowing Pali is necessary just that it could be helpful at times to understood the meaning of certain Pali words that have no english equivalent and that would require multiple words or paragraphs to explain in english due to the differences in the conceptual frameworks that the languages are based upon. For example, sankhara is a term that doing some research on can be helpful instead of just looking at the word fabrications and thinking that you know exactly what the Buddha meant when he used the word.

Further, one reason Pali can be helpful is because it provides umbrella terms that one can understand in relationship to multiple english words so that, for example, my use of the word sankhara will encompass the words fabrication, formation, construction, determination, arisen phenomena, impermanent, putting together, making, activities, conditions, conditioned things/phenomena, volitional formations, etc. So this is another reason that knowing Pali can be helpful.

I think I need to emphasize to you though that I am not saying that learning Pali is necessary at all to understand what the Buddha taught enough so that one could become a noble disciple. I'm just saying it can be helpful in gaining a deeper understanding than just reading english translations. Just as reading two english translations can be more helpful than reading one, reading the Pali translation on top of the two english translations can be more helpful than reading just the two english translations.

:anjali:
"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: The Problem With Pali

Postby Nyana » Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:16 am

danieLion wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:Without learning the foundational principles of the teachings and the path structure of how to apply the teachings, examining direct experience can lead in any number of directions which may be quite fruitless.
And for some, even adtger they've learned the foundations, produce no fruit.

Yes. Understanding something conceptually is one thing, applying that understanding is quite another.

danieLion wrote:So, are the (Chinese) Agamas inferior to the Pali manuscripts because the latter are "closer" to the language(s) the Buddha spoke?

They're not inferior. Of course, it would be interesting to have complete sutta collections from various textual traditions -- no matter what language they're preserved in.

danieLion wrote:Didn't the Buddha tell his followers that when they encountered other cultures to teach the dhamma in their language?

Do we have any records of the Buddha making any rules about which language his teachings should be preserved in?

There's the statement from Cv 5.33 (Vin ii, 139):

    I allow you, monks, to learn the speech of the Awakened One according to his own dialect.

This subject has been somewhat controversial. For elaboration see Ven. Ñāṇananda's Concept & Reality in Early Buddhist Thought, pp. 45-47. But more generally, the discourses are composed of conventional expressions and designations, and there's no reason why they can't adequately be translated into any modern language, dependent, of course, on the skill of the translator (and the capacity of the reader). A good translation of a given passage is generally no more vague than the Pāli passage, and the translation is sometimes made more specific than the Pāli due, in part, to the translator's interpretation.

SN 1.25:

    Though the wise one has transcended the conceived,
    He still might say, 'I speak,'
    He might say too, 'They speak to me.'
    Skilful, knowing the world's parlance,
    He uses such terms as mere expressions.

DN 9:

    Thus, Citta, there are these worldly expressions, worldly terms, worldly conventions, worldly concepts, which the Tathāgata uses without grasping them.

Compare with your man Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, § 120:

    When I talk about language (words, sentences, etc.) I must speak the language of every day. Is this language somehow too coarse and material for what we want to say? Then how is another one to be constructed?—And how strange that we should be able to do anything at all with the one we have!
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:37 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
danieLion wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:Without learning the foundational principles of the teachings and the path structure of how to apply the teachings, examining direct experience can lead in any number of directions which may be quite fruitless.
And for some, even adtger they've learned the foundations, produce no fruit.

Yes. Understanding something conceptually is one thing, applying that understanding is quite another.

danieLion wrote:So, are the (Chinese) Agamas inferior to the Pali manuscripts because the latter are "closer" to the language(s) the Buddha spoke?

They're not inferior. Of course, it would be interesting to have complete sutta collections from various textual traditions -- no matter what language they're preserved in.

danieLion wrote:Didn't the Buddha tell his followers that when they encountered other cultures to teach the dhamma in their language?

Do we have any records of the Buddha making any rules about which language his teachings should be preserved in?

There's the statement from Cv 5.33 (Vin ii, 139):

    I allow you, monks, to learn the speech of the Awakened One according to his own dialect.

This subject has been somewhat controversial. For elaboration see Ven. Ñāṇananda's Concept & Reality in Early Buddhist Thought, pp. 45-47. But more generally, the discourses are composed of conventional expressions and designations, and there's no reason why they can't adequately be translated into any modern language, dependent, of course, on the skill of the translator (and the capacity of the reader). A good translation of a given passage is generally no more vague than the Pāli passage, and the translation is sometimes made more specific than the Pāli due, in part, to the translator's interpretation.

SN 1.25:

    Though the wise one has transcended the conceived,
    He still might say, 'I speak,'
    He might say too, 'They speak to me.'
    Skilful, knowing the world's parlance,
    He uses such terms as mere expressions.

DN 9:

    Thus, Citta, there are these worldly expressions, worldly terms, worldly conventions, worldly concepts, which the Tathāgata uses without grasping them.

Compare with your man Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, § 120:

    When I talk about language (words, sentences, etc.) I must speak the language of every day. Is this language somehow too coarse and material for what we want to say? Then how is another one to be constructed?—And how strange that we should be able to do anything at all with the one we have!

:goodpost:
Thanks Nana.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:39 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:
danieLion wrote:So, are the (Chinese) Agamas inferior to the Pali manuscripts because the latter are "closer" to the language(s) the Buddha spoke?

Didn't the Buddha tell his followers that when they encountered other cultures to teach the dhamma in their language?

Do we have any records of the Buddha making any rules about which language his teachings should be preserved in?


1) I think the Chinese Agamas are very useful for sutta comparisons, gauging the authenticity of certain suttas, learning about early buddhism, but I do think more of the intended meaning of the discourses of the Buddha will be preserved in the Pali than in Chinese in virtue of the fact that Chinese is built upon a conceptual framework further removed from the one that the Buddha was working with when he taught dhamma.

2) Yes he did and I think that's very important, I certainly wouldn't know anything about the dhamma otherwise.

3) Not that I know of, and I think having english (or whatever language one speaks) translations is very important but that doesn't mean I think we should get rid of the Pali, because I think the Pali language can help inform us as to what the Buddha actually meant.

Once again, I'm not saying knowing Pali is necessary just that it could be helpful at times to understood the meaning of certain Pali words that have no english equivalent and that would require multiple words or paragraphs to explain in english due to the differences in the conceptual frameworks that the languages are based upon. For example, sankhara is a term that doing some research on can be helpful instead of just looking at the word fabrications and thinking that you know exactly what the Buddha meant when he used the word.

Further, one reason Pali can be helpful is because it provides umbrella terms that one can understand in relationship to multiple english words so that, for example, my use of the word sankhara will encompass the words fabrication, formation, construction, determination, arisen phenomena, impermanent, putting together, making, activities, conditions, conditioned things/phenomena, volitional formations, etc. So this is another reason that knowing Pali can be helpful.

I think I need to emphasize to you though that I am not saying that learning Pali is necessary at all to understand what the Buddha taught enough so that one could become a noble disciple. I'm just saying it can be helpful in gaining a deeper understanding than just reading english translations. Just as reading two english translations can be more helpful than reading one, reading the Pali translation on top of the two english translations can be more helpful than reading just the two english translations.

:anjali:

:goodpost:
Thanks PB101.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby manas » Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:49 am

How did Venerables Thanissaro, Bodhi, and others come up with all those wonderful translations, that we can compare with each other? They studied pali thoroughly and deeply, that's how. I admit I have relied on translations also for the vast majority of my practicing life, and still do. But I do intend to change that, although progress is very slow, myself being a householder with kids and all, but still I think we gain much from reading the texts in the original pali, hearing the word placements and the syntax, and learning gradually how to think in pali rather than just in English. I admit it's a long-term task, and that I've made some progress in the Dhamma (I hope) even knowing very little pali. Yes, that's true. But even so, I see it as a useful thing to study for all practitioners to whatever extent they are able, who wish to get a little bit closer to how the Buddha's words might have sounded. Closer...

As for the words pointing to concepts beyond words - well yes that's true, but we shouldn't let go of the raft until we've made it safely across to the other side. So in the meantime, words and their accuracy still matter.

:anjali:
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Mr Man » Sat Apr 06, 2013 11:36 am

danieLion wrote:
Mr Man wrote: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.

I took two years of Spanish as an undergrad. If I had time master other languages now, it would be Latin, then Pali.

So is that a yes?
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Kare » Sat Apr 06, 2013 1:48 pm

Whenever I see someone try to convince themselves and others of the unimportance of studying Pali, I can't help thinking of one of Aesops fables:

One hot summer's day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. "Just the thing to quench my thirst," quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: "I am sure they are sour."

:stirthepot:
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby Kamran » Sat Apr 06, 2013 7:57 pm

It was reading in Pali about metta meditation that Bikhu Analayo realized that the metta that he had been taught was not the same as in the suttas, and that the sutta method worked much better for him.

This set him on the path to learn source languages including Pali and Chinese and compare the sources against each other to glean new insights.

Even though he is an intensive scholar, Analayo spends 3 days in self-retreat each week, as well as longer retreats throughout the year, so it is possible to do intensive intellectual work, and still have the energy to advance in you practice.

As of yet, there is no English translation of the Agamas and the original Chinese can't be read by modern Chinese readers.

I believe there is a need for more people to learn the source languages, and I am thankful for those that have.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:14 am

manas wrote:How did Venerables Thanissaro, Bodhi, and others come up with all those wonderful translations, that we can compare with each other? They studied pali thoroughly and deeply, that's how. I admit I have relied on translations also for the vast majority of my practicing life, and still do. But I do intend to change that, although progress is very slow, myself being a householder with kids and all, but still I think we gain much from reading the texts in the original pali, hearing the word placements and the syntax, and learning gradually how to think in pali rather than just in English. I admit it's a long-term task, and that I've made some progress in the Dhamma (I hope) even knowing very little pali. Yes, that's true. But even so, I see it as a useful thing to study for all practitioners to whatever extent they are able, who wish to get a little bit closer to how the Buddha's words might have sounded. Closer...

As for the words pointing to concepts beyond words - well yes that's true, but we shouldn't let go of the raft until we've made it safely across to the other side. So in the meantime, words and their accuracy still matter.

:anjali:

Are you you saying there's a nececessary connection between "the raft" and Pali?
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:15 am

Mr Man wrote:
danieLion wrote:
Mr Man wrote: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.

I took two years of Spanish as an undergrad. If I had time master other languages now, it would be Latin, then Pali.

So is that a yes?

Take it as you wish.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:16 am

Kare wrote:Whenever I see someone try to convince themselves and others of the unimportance of studying Pali, I can't help thinking of one of Aesops fables:

One hot summer's day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. "Just the thing to quench my thirst," quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: "I am sure they are sour."

:stirthepot:

I didn't say studying Pali is unimportant.
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Postby danieLion » Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:17 am

Kamran wrote:It was reading in Pali about metta meditation that Bikhu Analayo realized that the metta that he had been taught was not the same as in the suttas, and that the sutta method worked much better for him.

This set him on the path to learn source languages including Pali and Chinese and compare the sources against each other to glean new insights.

Even though he is an intensive scholar, Analayo spends 3 days in self-retreat each week, as well as longer retreats throughout the year, so it is possible to do intensive intellectual work, and still have the energy to advance in you practice.

As of yet, there is no English translation of the Agamas and the original Chinese can't be read by modern Chinese readers.

I believe there is a need for more people to learn the source languages, and I am thankful for those that have.

The Buddha and the dhamma are the "source," not a language.
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