Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

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James Tan
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Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by James Tan » Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:55 am

Greetings ,

Recently , my friend were telling me that he is taking Pali courses in order to learn true accurate dhamma ? Without which one may misapprehending the dhamma !
Now , I don't know if this is the only way to learn true dhamma ? For over two thousand years many people learned the dhamma without getting to know Pali .
:reading:

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equilibrium
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by equilibrium » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:51 am

To be realised.......is not the same as learn.

Mundane knowledge is a raft!

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Sam Vara
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:01 am

I think it is certainly possible to understand what the Buddha talked about without knowing any Pali. The Pali scholar Richard Gombrich has strongly encouraged people to take up studying the language, but points out that it is possible to understand the meaning from translations; he believes that the essence of the teachings can be understood in one's own language, and without too many technical terms.

I am very slowly learning the basics of Pali, but my meditation teacher made an interesting observation. When we read translations, we are at the mercy of the assumptions and prejudices of the translator, which are impossible to see. But when we translate for ourselves, we are at the mercy of our own assumptions and prejudices, which are hard to see in a different way.

binocular
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by binocular » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:14 am

James Tan wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:55 am
Recently , my friend were telling me that he is taking Pali courses in order to learn true accurate dhamma ?
Fortunately or unfortunately, many words (not just in Pali) have complex meanings. In any given sutta, how can one know for sure which meaning of a word was meant?

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Sam Vara
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:21 am

binocular wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:14 am
James Tan wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 9:55 am
Recently , my friend were telling me that he is taking Pali courses in order to learn true accurate dhamma ?
Fortunately or unfortunately, many words (not just in Pali) have complex meanings. In any given sutta, how can one know for sure which meaning of a word was meant?
Certainty is always elusive, of course, but I think context is key. Just taking a few baby steps in learning Pali has shown me, however, how fragile the whole enterprise is. It is a good remedy against dogmatism.

binocular
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by binocular » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:22 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:01 am
I am very slowly learning the basics of Pali, but my meditation teacher made an interesting observation. When we read translations, we are at the mercy of the assumptions and prejudices of the translator, which are impossible to see. But when we translate for ourselves, we are at the mercy of our own assumptions and prejudices, which are hard to see in a different way.
Hence a suggestion is to take a middle way, a kind of triangulation: Read the sutta in a few translations (preferrably in different languages), try to understand the sutta via one's own learning of Pali, and discuss the sutta with admirable companions in the holy life. When this is done, an understanding can emerge that otherwise wouldn't.

Something like the way playing a musical piece from sheet music sounds best and makes sense only in some tempos and dynamic ranges, but not others.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:24 am

binocular wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:22 am
Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:01 am
I am very slowly learning the basics of Pali, but my meditation teacher made an interesting observation. When we read translations, we are at the mercy of the assumptions and prejudices of the translator, which are impossible to see. But when we translate for ourselves, we are at the mercy of our own assumptions and prejudices, which are hard to see in a different way.
Hence a suggestion is to take a middle way, a kind of triangulation: Read the sutta in a few translations (preferrably in different languages), try to understand the sutta via one's own learning of Pali, and discuss the sutta with admirable companions in the holy life. When this is done, an understanding can emerge that otherwise wouldn't.

Something like the way playing a musical piece from sheet music sounds best and makes sense only in some tempos and dynamic ranges, but not others.
Agreed. Good post.

binocular
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by binocular » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:30 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:21 am
Certainty is always elusive, of course, but I think context is key. Just taking a few baby steps in learning Pali has shown me, however, how fragile the whole enterprise is. It is a good remedy against dogmatism.
Not automatically, as evidently, there is plenty of Buddhist dogmatists who know Pali. :tongue:
Not everyone who knows something suffers from the curse of knowledge.

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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by James Tan » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:36 am

Guys , Let me show you an example .
Take sanna , English translation is perception .
Chinese translation is 想 .
Now , I don't know what sanna in Pali , but ,
I do know Chinese character with better grasping . Here's the difference between English and Chinese , how do you interpret perception ?
想 mean think / thinking .
How do you resolve this differences ?
:reading:

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Sam Vara
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:42 am

binocular wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:30 am
Not automatically, as evidently, there is plenty of Buddhist dogmatists who know Pali. :tongue:
Maybe. I've not yet encountered any solid ground suitable for the construction of a nice dogmatic edifice, but that might be because I'm just a beginner. But to be sure, it's not a certain remedy...

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Sam Vara
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:47 am

James Tan wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:36 am
Guys , Let me show you an example .
Take sanna , English translation is perception .
Chinese translation is 想 .
Now , I don't know what sanna in Pali , but ,
I do know Chinese character with better grasping . Here's the difference between English and Chinese , how do you interpret perception ?
想 mean think / thinking .
How do you resolve this differences ?
By taking it to mean apperception, rather than mere perception? This would have a mental component of assimilation or recognition, which is closer to "thinking" than "awareness of sense data". But one would, I think, need a knowledge of Chinese to get the full meaning of the character and then come up with a good translation.

James Tan
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by James Tan » Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:14 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:47 am
James Tan wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:36 am
Guys , Let me show you an example .
Take sanna , English translation is perception .
Chinese translation is 想 .
Now , I don't know what sanna in Pali , but ,
I do know Chinese character with better grasping . Here's the difference between English and Chinese , how do you interpret perception ?
想 mean think / thinking .
How do you resolve this differences ?
By taking it to mean apperception, rather than mere perception? This would have a mental component of assimilation or recognition, which is closer to "thinking" than "awareness of sense data". But one would, I think, need a knowledge of Chinese to get the full meaning of the character and then come up with a good translation.
想 = think (not perception)
Screenshot_20180317-200835.png
Screenshot_20180317-200835.png (83.84 KiB) Viewed 263 times

Perception = 知觉 = feeling (not thinking)
Screenshot_20180317-201143.png
Screenshot_20180317-201143.png (88.18 KiB) Viewed 263 times
The problem is , I look at the Google translation , from Chinese to English and from English to Chinese is quite different .
:reading:

binocular
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by binocular » Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:22 pm

James Tan wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:14 pm
The problem is , I look at the Google translation , from Chinese to English and from English to Chinese is quite different .
Which is not surprising; English and Chinese are such different languages.

On a general note: it can often be futile to make comparisons between languages one isn't fluent in.

James Tan
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by James Tan » Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:26 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:22 pm
James Tan wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:14 pm
The problem is , I look at the Google translation , from Chinese to English and from English to Chinese is quite different .
Which is not surprising; English and Chinese are such different languages.

On a general note: it can often be futile to make comparisons between languages one isn't fluent in.
Therefore , I couldn't figure out the true meaning of sanna , that is If I only refer to English or Chinese only . I may get the wrong message .

Thus , it seems we are at lost with many things since we normally only able to read one language .
Last edited by James Tan on Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
:reading:

binocular
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Re: Is it possible to learn true dhamma without Pali ?

Post by binocular » Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:28 pm

James Tan wrote:
Sat Mar 17, 2018 12:14 pm
想 = think (not perception)

Screenshot_20180317-200835.png
It's fascinating that a word can mean all that -- want, think, wish, suppose, believe, miss, feel like doing.

Given the complexity of the matter, it seems one doesn't have much choice but to have some faith in translators, and, which is just as important, to make sense of having faith like that.

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