Here's an useful old post by Ven. Dhammanando:
When translating a Pali verse, having identified the number, gender and
case of each declinable word, it's a good policy to proceed by dividing the
verse into its component phrases and then diagramming them, rather than
immediately attempting a translation of the whole. This is because in verse
there is no requirement that the usual word order of subject -> object ->
predicate be followed. So to reduce the likelihood of error one needs to
consider all the possible ways that the component words may relate to each
So first we should look out for nouns or pronouns in the nominative and
then identify which verb (or verbs) are their predicates and which adjectives
(if any) are qualifying them. Then we can proceed to do the same with nouns
in the accusative and other oblique cases. Sometimes several combinations
may be possible and we should not be too surprised (or disappointed) if the
outcome happens to be several equally plausible translations of the verse.
In the present case, happily, there are no such ambiguities. The verse's
component phrases may be analysed as follows:
1) Subject & main verb:
"the wise praise"
2) Primary direct object (showing what it is that the wise praise):
"diligence in doing deeds of merit"
3) Instrument (showing the agent by whom the exercise of diligence is to be
"by one wishing for"
4) Secondary direct object (showing the items wished for by the instrument,
now considered as a subject in his own right):
aayu.m arogiya.m va.n.na.m, sagga.m uccaakuliinata.m ratiyo , u.laaraa
"long life and health, beauty, heaven, noble birth, and a succession of
[all accusative because they are direct objects of patthayanta]
The relations between these 4 components may be shown on a Reed-Kellogg
All that remains to do is to decide how to put the pieces of the jigsaw
Code: Select all
| | The wise | praise| diligence _________|_______|___________ | \ | \ | \ by | \ one desiring | long life etc. \_____________|________________ / following in succession / _________________________/
back together in a way that both suits the natural speech patterns of the
target language AND preserves the meaning of the text.
I would suggest:
"The wise praise diligence in doing deeds of merit by [or: on the part of]
one wishing for long life, health and beauty, heaven, noble birth, and a
succession of fine delights."
I'll leave it to poets to decide how this could best be expressed in verse.
"I don't believe I know of anything in life more exciting
than diagramming sentences."
-- Gertrude Stein
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