The Benefits & Drawbacks of Pali

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
chownah
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by chownah » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:01 am

The problem with Pali is that there is no Rosetta Stone...and there is no body of literature about enough diverse topics to clearly establish typical word usage. Couple these two and also considering that many of the concepts that Buddhists want to extract from the Pali are difficult to discuss even between two people highly educated in the same language....then I think that the "problem with Pali" becomes apparent.
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tiltbillings
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:13 am

chownah wrote:The problem with Pali is that there is no Rosetta Stone...and there is no body of literature about enough diverse topics to clearly establish typical word usage.
That is why Sanskrit is a useful language in conjunction with Pali.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

binocular
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by binocular » Sun Jun 16, 2013 6:44 am

mikenz66 wrote:... but they are minuscule in comparison to what is available in the languages spoken in Theravada countries.
It's true that English gives you more access to resources than other European languages, but don't forget that there are vast resources in Thai, Burmese, or Sinhalese, that are simply not available in English.
Sure. But to some people, Thai, Burmese, Sinhalese etc. are even more foreign or less available than Pali itself.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Kare
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by Kare » Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:07 am

chownah wrote:The problem with Pali is that there is no Rosetta Stone...and there is no body of literature about enough diverse topics to clearly establish typical word usage.
Have you read the Pali commentaries? Have you studied the detailed definitions and explanations that they give?
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chownah
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by chownah » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:28 pm

Kare wrote:
chownah wrote:The problem with Pali is that there is no Rosetta Stone...and there is no body of literature about enough diverse topics to clearly establish typical word usage.
Have you read the Pali commentaries? Have you studied the detailed definitions and explanations that they give?
If you think I am wrong then please answer with something which directly relates to what I have said instead of with rhetorical questions.
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tiltbillings
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:40 pm

chownah wrote:
Kare wrote:
chownah wrote:The problem with Pali is that there is no Rosetta Stone...and there is no body of literature about enough diverse topics to clearly establish typical word usage.
Have you read the Pali commentaries? Have you studied the detailed definitions and explanations that they give?
If you think I am wrong then please answer with something which directly relates to what I have said instead of with rhetorical questions.
chownah
It looked like a rather straightforward response to me.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by BlackBird » Mon Jun 17, 2013 1:37 am

danieLion wrote:In which sutta(s) does the Buddha instruct us to learn Pali?

Why would someone instruct his audience to learn the language (more or less) that they ALREADY speak.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

chownah
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by chownah » Mon Jun 17, 2013 3:39 am

tiltbillings wrote:
chownah wrote:
Kare wrote:
Have you read the Pali commentaries? Have you studied the detailed definitions and explanations that they give?
If you think I am wrong then please answer with something which directly relates to what I have said instead of with rhetorical questions.
chownah
It looked like a rather straightforward response to me.
No surprise in that.

Also, rhetorical questions are a good way to dilute a discussion as well as a way to persuade the careless thinker and are often used as a way to move the focus off of an uncomfortable fact when there is no apparent way to respond to dispute. Follow up comments which really do nothing to advance the discussion are often used in the same way.....things like "seems reasonable to me!".
chownah
P.S. Please everyone don't get sidetracked by the attempts to dismiss my comments.....if you have nothing to say about my post then that is fine.....if you do please try to actually address what I have said concerning Pali and forgo needless and pointless postings like above. Thanks....I'm trying to have a discussion and not a posting competition.
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Dmytro
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by Dmytro » Mon Jun 17, 2013 5:43 am

Hi Kare,
Kare wrote:Have you read the Pali commentaries? Have you studied the detailed definitions and explanations that they give?
Seems like the problem with Pali has to do with the peculiarities of the modern techno-"democracy"-oriented culture. In this culture, everyone seems to be entitled to voice publicly his opinion on any subject, regardless of his knowledge and competence.
On the other hand, some subjects, like Pali, require knowledge and competence.
So there's a cultural pressure to replace Pali with English, to make way for post-Protestant-like "religion for everybody", which would require no authorities.
And everyone would happily read English texts and interpret them freely as he likes :soap:
In this depersonalized culture, any meanings must be relative, and have no sure ground.

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Kare
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by Kare » Mon Jun 17, 2013 9:46 am

chownah wrote:
Kare wrote:
chownah wrote:The problem with Pali is that there is no Rosetta Stone...and there is no body of literature about enough diverse topics to clearly establish typical word usage.
Have you read the Pali commentaries? Have you studied the detailed definitions and explanations that they give?
If you think I am wrong then please answer with something which directly relates to what I have said instead of with rhetorical questions.
chownah
My question related directly to what you said. The Pali Canon and the Pali commentaries is just such a body of literature that you deny the existence of. Therefore I will repeat my question: Have you read the Pali commentaries? And have you read the Pali Canon? In Pali? If you have read this body of literature in Pali, we may discuss further whatever problematic points you find in it (I willingly admit there are some). If you have not read it ... please start reading. Then, in a couple of years, we may talk again.
Mettāya,
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chownah
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by chownah » Mon Jun 17, 2013 1:12 pm

I think that it is possible to discuss the adequacy of the body of Pali literature without reading all of it in Pali....or in fact of reading any of it. A rich literary heritage comes from a literature created by people with diverse backgrounds and diverse philosophies reflecting a variety of often conflicting views. For example look at English literature and the incredible variety of people who have contributed to it....then look at Pali literature and see how virtually every author was a Buddhist monk and not just any Buddhist monk but a Buddhist monk from a very restricted region when compared to the much wider dispersion of Buddhism in general......or am I wrong about this?
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binocular
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by binocular » Mon Jun 17, 2013 1:36 pm

chownah wrote:I think that it is possible to discuss the adequacy of the body of Pali literature without reading all of it in Pali....or in fact of reading any of it. A rich literary heritage comes from a literature created by people with diverse backgrounds and diverse philosophies reflecting a variety of often conflicting views. For example look at English literature and the incredible variety of people who have contributed to it....then look at Pali literature and see how virtually every author was a Buddhist monk and not just any Buddhist monk but a Buddhist monk from a very restricted region when compared to the much wider dispersion of Buddhism in general......or am I wrong about this?
If I am understanding you correctly, then your concern with Pali literature (the Canon and the Commentaries) is that it comes from what is essentially a hermetic culture, a culture closed off from the rest of society; and that if there would also exist a secular literature in Pali, then we'd have more reference points for understanding the texts. But that since such secular literature in Pali doesn't seem to exist or is negligible, we are left with that hermetic culture which we are not likely to comprehend correctly, because it is hermetic.

Is this in roundabout what you mean?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Kare
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by Kare » Mon Jun 17, 2013 2:57 pm

binocular wrote:
chownah wrote:I think that it is possible to discuss the adequacy of the body of Pali literature without reading all of it in Pali....or in fact of reading any of it. A rich literary heritage comes from a literature created by people with diverse backgrounds and diverse philosophies reflecting a variety of often conflicting views. For example look at English literature and the incredible variety of people who have contributed to it....then look at Pali literature and see how virtually every author was a Buddhist monk and not just any Buddhist monk but a Buddhist monk from a very restricted region when compared to the much wider dispersion of Buddhism in general......or am I wrong about this?
If I am understanding you correctly, then your concern with Pali literature (the Canon and the Commentaries) is that it comes from what is essentially a hermetic culture, a culture closed off from the rest of society; and that if there would also exist a secular literature in Pali, then we'd have more reference points for understanding the texts. But that since such secular literature in Pali doesn't seem to exist or is negligible, we are left with that hermetic culture which we are not likely to comprehend correctly, because it is hermetic.

Is this in roundabout what you mean?
I agree that this may be seen as a drawback. But it is also possible to take the opposite view. In the introduction to his translation of the Visuddhimagga, Bhikkhu Nyanamoli writes (page xxxiii):

"The Pali Language (the 'text language' which the commentators call Magadhan) holds a special position, with no European parallell, being reserved to one field namely, the Buddha's teaching. So there are no alien echoes. In the Suttas the sanskrit is silent, and it is heavily muted in the later literature. This fact, coupled with the richness and integrity of the subject itself, gives it a singular limpidness and depth in its early form, as in a string quartet or the clear ocean, which attains in the style of the Suttas to an exquisite and unrivalled beauty unreflectable by any rendering."
Mettāya,
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chownah
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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by chownah » Mon Jun 17, 2013 3:06 pm

binocular,
You're assessment is correct to a degree. The comment I made is one way to indicate a likely shortcoming in Pali which can be discussed without being a Pali scholar as opposed to not being able to discuss it at all unless one is well read across the entire body of Pali literature which seems to be Kare's view....and my concerns are not specifically what you describe but what you describe might be considered to be a specific case of a more general idea....to me there seems to be a very narrow body of Pali literature for many reasons (including what you have mentioned) and one of these is the narrowness of authorship. Another concern is whether one person or a small number of people exerted too much influence on the language or it's transmission...Buddhagossa comes to mind. If memory serves me correctly it seems that some king long ago wanted to sponsor a translation of the Pali into some more modern language and he found Buddhagossa and asked him to translate one text to see how it went......the king liked what Buddhagossa did so he gave him the job of translating it all. Seems to me that we are at the whim of Buddhagossa to a great extent and of course who knows whether Buddhagossa had to make politically correct adjustments to please the king. I'm no scholar on this area but this does raise questions about undo influence on the part of two historic figures.

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Re: The Problem With Pali

Post by Nyana » Mon Jun 17, 2013 3:26 pm

mikenz66 wrote:An enormous hole that non-pali readers have is access to the Theravada Commentaries. A few complete Sutta commentaries are available, but mostly it is just the particular excerpts selected by translators.
If one has studied to the point where they need to go to non-translated commentaries in order to further differentiate this or that point of commentarial interpretation, then I would suggest that they've probably gone far enough down that particular rabbit hole and more study likely won't do much to further their actual realization of the paths and fruits.

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