Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

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Re: Pamāda

Post by Kare » Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:48 pm

Jechbi wrote:Thanks, Kare. This is great.

Do you regard it as an error when Ven. Dhammavuddho Thero and Ven. Sayadaw U Pandita break off the prefix and include the root word "thana" as part of their analyses of the word "satipatthana"?
I do not wish to find faults with those venerable masters. But from what I already have said about grammar, and from the quote from Warder, you can surely judge for yourself.
With regard to the difference between patthana and upatthana, this comment strikes me as potentially relevant to our discussion, from here:
Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The four frames of reference (satipatthana) are a set of teachings that show where a meditator should focus attention and how. This dual role — the "where" and the "how" — is reflected in the fact that the term satipatthana can be explained etymologically in two ways. On the one hand, it can be regarded as a compound of sati (mindfulness, reference, the ability to keep something in mind) and patthana (foundation, condition, source), thus referring to the object that is kept in mind as a frame of reference for giving context to one's experience. Alternatively, satipatthana can be seen as a compound of sati and upatthana (establishing near, setting near), thus referring to the approach (the how) of keeping something closely in mind, of maintaining a solid frame of reference. Scholars are divided as to which interpretation is right, but for all practical purposes they both are. The Buddha was more a poet than a strict etymologist, and he may have deliberately chosen an ambiguous term that would have fruitful meanings on more than one level. In the practice of the frames of reference, both the proper object and the proper approach are crucial for getting the proper results.
I like that: "The Buddha was more a poet than a strict etymologist, and he may have deliberately chosen an ambiguous term that would have fruitful meanings on more than one level." And it relates to this (highlight added):
Kare wrote:Translation is not, and has never been, an exact science. Knowing this, however, it is important to try to base the translation/interpretation as soundly as possibly on an understanding of the language - grammar, syntax etc., and also on an understanding of the subject of the text.
I agree. Ven. Thanissaro has formulated this well. We should also be aware that the Buddha sometimes borrowed his terminology from the Brahmins and from the Jains, as Richard Gombrich has pointed out. And in addition to that, every language has its own idiomatic expressions that seem to defy logic, and Pali was no exception to that. And unless we understand the idioms and the references to jainism and brahmanism, we may easily misunderstand some sayings.
... I keep on wondering why the 5th precept so often is presented as an abstention from intoxicants if the language of the precept in Pali does indeed unmistakably call for an abstention from intoxication instead, as your presentation here would seem to indicate. I raised this question in the other thread, and your suggestion was that I ask those individuals directly why they might teach that the precept calls for abstention from intoxicants rather than from intoxication. Since it's not practical for me to do that in this thread, however, can we consider the possibility that other scholarly translations of "suramerayamajjapadamatthana" yield a different interpretation than your own?
This is not only a possibility, it is a fact. There are several scholarly translations of the Buddhist texts. But scholars often disagree (which is a good thing, leading to renewed studies and examinations of the texts). More recent scholars often find errors in the works of earlier scholars. So being scholarly is no guarantee for being right.
On a slightly different topic related to our discussion, with regard to the meaning of "thana," is it correct in your opinion that there is a sense in which "thana" can be understood as a form of activity rather than merely a condition? Or do you feel that "thana" cannot be understood as any form of activity?
Here some etymology can be helpful (although etymology is a dangerous path to walk). Thana in Sanskrit is sthana, being related to English "stand" and Latin "static, station, etc.". A certain static and non-dynamic quality seems to be inherent. So if thana can be understood as a form of activity ... let's say that I have yet to see it. But the collection of Pali texts is immense, so who knows ...?

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Re: Pamāda

Post by Jechbi » Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:19 am

Thank you, Kare. Now that I've stumbled about here clumsily, it appears this thread comes full circle, because I wish to refer us back to this thread, which prompted the present discussion.

I appreciate the valuable opportunity for learning that you have helped to create here. I suspect you will disagree with Ven. Dhammanando's translation, but as you say, these discussions can lead to greater understanding.

Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: Pamāda

Post by PeterB » Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:24 am

One would hope so Jechbi.

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