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Why learn Pali? - Dhamma Wheel

Why learn Pali?

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

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Pannapetar
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Why learn Pali?

Postby Pannapetar » Sat May 15, 2010 1:45 am

Hello friends,

I hope you don't mind if I ask: Why learn Pali? What's your personal motivation?

Of course, there is an obvious answer to this question: to read the Pali canon. Unfortunately, that doesn't really explain it for me. You see, I once elected to learn Latin at high school (instead of French as a SFL) which I came later to see as a really big mistake. Like Pali, Latin is as dead as a mouse. Nobody speaks or writes in Latin or Pali. If you want to read Ovid, Virgil, or Cicero, there are a number of excellent translations to choose from. Same with Pali. This isn't the 19th or early 20th century. If you want to read the Pali canon or its commentaries, there are likewise a number of excellent translations to choose from.

Life is short and learning Pali takes long. Looking at the cost/benefit analysis, I can think of very few (actually none) arguments that speak in favour of it. So, why learn Pali? I wish to understand the motives. What brought you to learn it? Looking forward to your replies.

Cheers, Thomas

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retrofuturist
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Re: Why learn Pali?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 15, 2010 1:59 am

Greetings Thomas,

I like to understand key individual terms, because some of them are quite deep in their meaning and are translated differently by different translators (e.g. sankhara, dukkha, jati, bhava, namarupa, upadana) so my interest is in trying to understand the words. The sentence construction, grammar and so on isn't of so much interest to me yet, in terms of return for effort.

I've heard this approach compared to that of scientist, who learns a lot of specialised terms and applies them in discussion, but still uses these terms against the backdrop of their native language, rather than adopting a separate "scientist language".

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

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Re: Why learn Pali?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat May 15, 2010 2:11 am

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Ben
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Re: Why learn Pali?

Postby Ben » Sat May 15, 2010 2:33 am

It is a wholesome use of one's time - if one has the time.
“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

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plwk
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Re: Why learn Pali?

Postby plwk » Sat May 15, 2010 2:37 am

One:
Doesn't hurt to learn something new...

Two:
At the very least, during the pujas, one can blend in with ease and read/understand the Pali chants without having to keep referring to the English translations...

Three:
At the very most, one can read the canonical texts to understand the original for oneself (besides relying on notable and scholastic vernacular translations as support) and can readily spot especially certain 'butchered' online versions (most notorious ones are the Kalama & Dona Suttas)

:anjali:

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Re: Why learn Pali?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 15, 2010 2:46 am


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Wind
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Re: Why learn Pali?

Postby Wind » Sat May 15, 2010 3:00 am

Sometimes I wonder how do we know for certain that the Pali word is translated correctly? What if the early translator who translate it to English made some errors? When I watch foreign movies with subtitles, I noticed many times the translation is off because there is no actual equivalent phrases or words to replace it with. And because of that, the original meaning is lost.

So when I look at a Pali word and the translated English word, I wonder if it is really correct. I guess we really have no other option since the Pali language is dead.

Reductor
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Re: Why learn Pali?

Postby Reductor » Sat May 15, 2010 3:38 am

I'm endeavoring to now learn Pali, but having just begun I don't know yet just how difficult it is going to be.

As I've been reading the SN I have experienced a certain unease about the translation. Not that I mistrust Bodhi the man, but rather there is a sense that I couldn't get to the real meaning if in fact it had been obscured. That bothers me. In some instances I would read a passage, then read the note in which he would consider the commentary and his own opinion, then present a conclusion, which was already clear in the text I had read. So, if his conclusion is in fact in error, or what have you, then that is the conclusion I have picked up unwittingly without an easy way to balance it. I don't have any PTS access, and much of the SN is not translated for public access online, or the translations are just very poor.

What to do, what to do?

Also consider the cost of a single copy of the SN: 120 canadian dollars. Wow. Lots, yeah.. and it's only a small part of the canon and commentary. To buy that entire collection would cost to much. Whereas Lily De Silva has a free primer online and Warders Intro to Pali set me back 30 bucks (and I was over charged, as its hard to find a copy here in the cold north).

Besides which, I hear that multilingual persons have a lower incident of dementia in old age. So, you know, its win-win.
Last edited by Reductor on Sat May 15, 2010 4:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why learn Pali?

Postby alan » Sat May 15, 2010 3:50 am


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Re: Why learn Pali?

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Re: Why learn Pali?

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Re: Why learn Pali?

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Re: Why learn Pali?

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Re: Why learn Pali?

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Re: Why learn Pali?

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Re: Why learn Pali?

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Re: Why learn Pali?

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Re: Why learn Pali?

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Re: Why learn Pali?

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Re: Why learn Pali?

Postby Dmytro » Mon May 17, 2010 7:59 am

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