Sunday, January 06, 2008

Fun with Pāli and Sanskrit

In my last meeting with my thesis advisor it was revealed to me that I ought to be learning Pāli. Ohhh... Shoot.

No worries. Picking up a canonical language of Buddhism should be a breeze. I've studied Sanskrit, after all, the canonical language of early Hinduism and 'father' language of P
āli. The two are remarkably similar: karma is sanskrit, kamma is Pāli; dharma / dhamma. Simple stuff, right? I'm sure there are some much tougher cases. I know 'ignorance' in sanskrit: avidyā, becomes avijjā in Pāli. But anywho...

In my search for 'learn Pali easy' on Google I came across some great resources. Here are a few:

एवेर्योने शौल्ड लीर्ण संस्कृत: everyone should learn sanskrit. I don't know if this is really useful (e.g. if I should need to compose something in Devanagari, the alphabet of early Pali and Sanskrit - and contemporary Hindi). But it can be fun. For instance, ever wonder what your name looks like in Devanagari? Mine is:

जुस्तीं व्हिताकर (Justin Whitaker)

I actually found that on the Sanskrit Links Blog, a useful and current repository of helpful links. (largely Hindu-based, but still helpful)

And that I found from Granthinam, a German academic's Blog - which itself has a good half-dozen other academic blog links.

I've also spent some time (too much for now, as Tibet is off my radar for a bit) at; an excellent repository of the work and thoughts of Sam Van Schaik, a recent ph.d. and current worker at London's own British Library.

A few more - and more useful ones given my current assignment - are:

The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary
Lily de Silva's excellent book the Pali Primer (online), and

a Concise Pali-English Dictionary by A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera.

So, there are some fun resources if you're interested in fun with Pali and Sanskrit. I'm sure that's not many of you out there! BUT, for those with the interest and dedication, these should make for a fine start. Good luck and enjoy!


Kiran Paranjape said...

I must congratulate you for your article. Sanskrit is the root language of all the Indian languages. Pali & Ardhamagadhi are actually local varients of the old spoken dialect of Sanskrit.

Another point is:
What you have done to the sentence"Everybodu should learn Sanskrit" is called TRANSLITERATION & not TRANSLATION. Transliteration means just to write the same sentence phoneatically using the letters from the other language. While translation for this sentence would have been "सर्वे संस्कृतं पठंतु" = sarve sanskritam pathhantu. It should be clear now. Also if you send me the correct pronunciation of your names i.e. the way theyt are actually spoken, I will write them for you in Sanskrit which you may copy paste to your blog.
All the best for your Ph.D. thesis & carrer.

Webmaster - Translations

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Dear Kiran - many thanks for your kind comment! Ah, yes, you're right, I should have been clear about the transliteration - and many thanks indeed for the translation.

Ohh.. I'll get you our names asap! Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

For some other resources:

newly back on-line, the Critical Pali Dictionary:

Also a searchable Pali Tipitaka:


Buddhist_philosopher said...

Margaret - those are great! Many thanks :) I'll add them to my post asap - right now I'm exhausted from filling out scholarship forms.... oh the life of the career-student...

Anonymous said...

Bhikkhu Bodhi has an on-line audio Pāli course here:

There are also various Bhikkhu Bodhi talks available online:

Dharma talks given by Bhikku Bodhi:

A Systematic Study of the Majjhima Nikaya Taught by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

Videos available as well.

Videos of Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's live discourses, including many from
his "Sutta-Nipata" series of lectures, can be found online on "Sixty
Minutes with Buddha":

May you succeed in all your endeavors

Platypus said...

Hello Justin, you mentioned that you've studied Sanskrit before, so I just wanted to ask you want kind of resources did you use and which would you suggest for a total beginner?
Also, would you recommend learning Sanskrit or Pali first if the purpose is to read the Buddhist scriptures in their original form?


Nikki Chau said...

Thanks for the links! There are some of us out there :)