(a quick guide to simple methods of exploring the meaning of Pali terms, recovered from E-Sangha forum)
Hello Pali friends,
Articles or books which describe the Pali term give only partial coverage, coloured by the viewpoint of the author. The natural solution is to analyze the primary Pali texts themselves. This thread is intended for helpful hints on how to do this.
1. Finding glosses (passages with definitions)
To find glosses it is highly advisable to use the VRI Chattha Sangayana available athttp://www.tipitaka.org/cst/about/
. This program has an excellent option of finding the given word in the context of another given word nearby. Besides, you can place an asterick as substitute for any possible letters.
a. 'katam*' method
For example, you are looking for the definition of the term 'vitakka' in the early texts.
You enter 'vitakk*' as one search word, and 'katam*' as second, with not too large distance between them (about 5 words).
In the results look especially for cases when the two words agree in case.
Soon you find a definition in Vibhanga:
Tattha katamo vitakko? Yo takko vitakko sa"nkappo appanaa byappanaa cetaso abhiniropanaa sammaasa"nkappo– aya.m vuccati “vitakko”.
b. 'vuccat' method
Similarly, look for example, for "bodh* vuccat*" and you will find in Niddesa:
Bodhi vuccati catūsu maggesu ñāṇaṃ
с. 'ti' method
This approach is used for finding definitions in commentaries.
For example, you are looking for the definition of the term 'paatubhuuta' in commentaries.
You enter 'paatubhuut*' as a search word, and look for the forms ending with -ti in the results. Atthakatha is preferable to Tika as more early and reliable.
Eventually you find:
2. Finding related words
Sometimes there's no clear and reliable definition, so the Pali terms explorer needs to be more inventive.
a. verbs, nouns, adjectives and participles
For each term there's usually a host of related forms, which give helpful clues.
For example, for noun 'mano' there's a verb 'ma~n~nati', and a lot of compounds which can be examined as well.
b. finding synonyms
For example, you are looking for synonyms of 'ceteti' in suttas.
You enter the search word 'cetet*', selecting only 'Suttapitaka' as a search area.
When CSCD offers the search results, look for the word forms in the left box which happen in the early texts (shown in the right box).
Having selected such a form, click on 'Occurence' and choose 'selected word in all the books', with about 3 words before and after.
Soon you find that 'ceteti' is often mentioned along with 'abhisa"nkharoti', 'kappeti', 'pakappeti', 'anuseti'.
Thus you gain a deeper comprehension of the term on the basis of primary Pali sources.