Reply To: post on Niddesa (Brief Description) of Paṭicca Samuppāda


I wanted to say a bit more about the quoted comment by “Coemgenu.”

The last of the quoted comment is:

“.. This can be seen in the unorthodox romanization system used at the Pure Dhamma site:

gathi instead of gati
hethu-pala instead of hetu-phala.
micca-ditthi instead of micchā-diṭṭhi
satipattana instead of satipaṭṭhāna
Etc., etc.”

1. The last three are wrong. I do have hetu-phala, micchā-diṭṭhi, and satipaṭṭhāna spelled like that in my posts. It is possible that I may have used hethu-pala, micca-ditthi, and satipattana in the very days when I did not pay much attention to this issue of the “Tipitaka English Convention” discussed below. But I don’t think those appear in any posts now.

  • All current posts on the website are written per the “Tipitaka English Convention.”

2. I have sometimes used “gathi” (in parenthesis) to show the correct pronunciation of the Pali word “gati.”

3. Many people are unaware of the “Tipitaka English” convention adopted by Early European scholars (in the 1800s) when they started writing Pali texts with the English alphabet. 

  • Tipitaka was written with the Sinhala alphabet during the last Buddhist Council attended by all Arahants over 2000 years ago.
  • European scholars adopted a writing convention in the 1800s that did not match the implicated pronunciation. If they tried to write many Pali words showing the correct pronunciation, they would turn out to be very long. I described this in two posts starting with the post “Tipiṭaka English” Convention Adopted by Early European Scholars – Part 1.”
  •  Let me quote #5 of the post:

    5. Now, let us see why the “Standard English” convention leads to long words written with the English (Latin) alphabet. Let us take a simple Pāli word, “citta.” In the original Tipiṭaka, it was written as “චිත්ත” in Sinhala.

    The “ch” sound in English is seen, for example, in “china” and “chain.” It takes two English letters to produce the “ච” sound. In the same way, the “ත” sound requires two letters, “th,” in English as in “Theme” or “both.”

    • Therefore, in “Standard English,” “චිත්ත” would be reproduced as “chiththa.”
    • As you can see, writing that word using “Standard English” would take eight letters instead of five in “citta.”
    • With more complex Pāli words, the corresponding “Standard English” reproduction would be cumbersome. That seems to be the second reason for using a different “Tipiṭaka English” convention; see below.
    • Of course, one must know this convention and pronounce “citta” as “chiththa.”
    • Another good example word is ” satipaṭṭhāna.” Per the convention, the “t” must be pronounced as “th” (as in thief) and “” as “t” (as in trip); in “ṭh,” the “t” sound is even more emphasized. I suggest going through the post carefully.
  • Similarly, the Pali word “gati” was in the Tipitaka as “ගති.” If they wrote that in English letters with the correct pronunciation, it would be “gathi.” However, with the adopted “Tipiaka Convention,” it is written as “gati,” but now it rhymes like the “t” in “tree.” Even in the Sinhala language, one unaware of the “Tipiaka Convention” may mispronounce it in Sinhala as “ගටි.”
  • I  often see this problem when some Sinhalese (putting English subtitles in Wahraka Desanas, for example) write “anicca” as “anichcha.” That is because that is how it sounds! They are unaware of the “Tipiaka Convention” for writing Pali words in English.
  • That is why I used “gathi” in parenthesis with “gati” to show the correct pronunciation.
  • The post “Tipiṭaka English” Convention Adopted by Early European Scholars – Part 1” (and the second part) was written several years ago. Thus, some of you may not be aware of it. That is why I thought of writing this in detail. I highly recommend reading those two posts to understand this critical issue.
  • Please feel free to ask questions since this is important to understand.

P.S. It could be a good idea to consult “Pāli Glossary – (A-K)” and “Pāli Glossary – (L-Z)” to listen to the correct pronunciations.

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