Sanskrit Prohibited

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    • #31152

      In Misinterpretation of Anicca and Anatta by Early European Scholars there is a section named “Translation of Tipitaka to Sanskrit Was Prohibited by the Buddha”, that states the following:

      13. The Buddha had foreseen the problems of a direct translation of the Tipitaka. He warned not to TRANSLATE the Tipitaka to ANY LANGUAGE, and particularly to Sanskrit. There were two Brahmins by the names of Yameḷa and Kekuṭa who were experts on the Vedic Texts. They became bhikkhus and asked the Buddha whether they should translate the Pāli suttā to Sanskrit.

      That is when the Buddha admonished them that Sanskrit was a language with musical overtones developed by the high-minded Brahmins and thus it was not possible to convey the true meanings of Maghadhi (Pāli) words in Sanskrit; see Chulavagga 5.33.

      In the SuttaCentral English translation, the Pāli word for Sanskrit (Chandasa) is translated incorrectly as, “metrical”; see, “15. Minor matters (Khuddaka)” which is the translation of “1. Khuddakavatthu“. The relevant Pāli text is located close to the end, and starts as, “Tena kho pana samayena yameḷakekuṭā nāma…”.

      About being the musical overtones being the Sanskrit problem, I do not find where this is stated. About intonation, in the Chulavagga 5.33, I find this: “Now at that time monks were doubtful about intoning. They told this matter to the Lord. He said: “Monks, I allow intoning.””.

      Also in Chulavagga 5.33, there is this:
      “‘You are not, O Bhikkhus, to put the word of the Buddhas into chandaso. Whosoever does so, shall be guilty of a dukkata. I allow you, O Bhikkhus, to learn the word of the Buddhas each in his own dialect.'”

      Here, chandaso is written as “(Sanskrit) verse”.

      Pali source: ““na, bhikkhave, buddhavacanaṃ chandaso āropetabbaṃ. Yo āropeyya, āpatti dukkaṭassa. Anujānāmi, bhikkhave, sakāya niruttiyā buddhavacanaṃ pariyāpuṇitun”ti”.

      I had doubts about the meaning of chandaso, sakāya, and niruttiyā. While looking for information for making this topic, I found something that seems to me valuable:
      Bryan Levman – Sakāya niruttiyā revisited

      It is a 19-page paper. I quote the summary:

      This paper revisits the well-known incident in the Vinaya (II, 139) where the Buddha is believed to authorize translation of the sakāya niruttiyā is analyzed in detail, showing that in the first key statement, te sakāya niruttiyā buddhavacanaṃ dūsenti, “They are ruining the buddhavacana with their own nirutti”, the word sakāya (“one’s own”) refers to the monks, while in the second key statement, anujānāmi bhikkhave sakāya niruttiyā buddhavacanaṃ pariyāpuṇituṃ, “I prescribe monks, the buddhavacana to be learned thoroughly with my on nirutti”, the word sakāya refers to the Buddha. The paper looks at the use of the word nirutti throughout the Pāḷi scriptures and concludes that the word does not mean “dialect” as most translators have taken it, but “name”, “term”, “explanation”, “definition”, or “designation”. So the correct sense of the passage is that various monks are ruining buddhavacana using their own names fot the Buddha’s terms and the Buddha therefore orders that buddhavacana be learned with the names and terms that he has designated. Presumably this refers to the specialized vocabulary unique to the Buddha’s teaching, like anatta, aniccha, paticcasamuppāda, etc., for with other terms were being substituded. The Buddha also forbids his words to be rendered into Vedic recitatory verse (chandaso). The Chinese versions of this incident are also examinated.
      Although the Buddha does autorize learning and reciting buddhavacana in the “sound of the country”, it appears — from examining all recensions — that he is talking as much or more about recitation as he is about dialect. The pare ends by examining the longstanding Buddhist recitation tradition and concludes that the Buddha wanted his words memorized and recitates exactly as he sopke them.

      Not being versed in Pāḷi, I cannot validate what the paper states, but it seems to me in line with what it is stated in this (Puredhamma) site, that keyword Pāḷi words must not be translated.
      I think it would be valuable to have an article in this site analyzing in deep the meaning of ““na, bhikkhave, buddhavacanaṃ chandaso āropetabbaṃ. Yo āropeyya, āpatti dukkaṭassa. Anujānāmi, bhikkhave, sakāya niruttiyā buddhavacanaṃ pariyāpuṇitun”ti”, and the meaning of chandaso, sakāya, and nirutti as the paper does, and its implications.

    • #31155

      Thank you for the article and your quote from it, oetb.
      – I will read the article when I find some time.

      Yes. It would be a good idea to address this in a post OR in a detailed comment here. I will try to get to it ASAP.

      This issue is related to what I briefly touched on in the recent post, “Difference Between “Me and Mine” and Sakkāya Diṭṭhi

      I am pasting the last part of the post below:

      11. Many people have the perception that Buddha Gotama “adopted” that five-fold analysis from the Vedas because those terms appeared in Vedic literature before Buddha Gotama.

      – There was Buddha Kassapa on this Earth before Buddha Gotama. Buddha Kassapa’s teachings (especially the true meanings of key concepts) were lost with time. But many terms, including the concepts of kamma, kamma vipāka, five aggregates, and many others, were incorporated into Vedic teachings and transmitted through many generations. Of course, the Vedic teachings used the Sanskrit language, which was derived from Pāli or Magadha language. Sanskrit means “derived from” (“san” + “krutha” or සන් කෘත or සංස්කෘත in Sinhala.)
      – The Pāli words like kamma, Nibbāna, Paṭicca Samuppāda were made “more impressive-sounding” by mostly adding the “r” sound. Those three Pāli words became karma, nirvāna, and Pratītyasamutpāda, respectively, in Sanskrit.
      – The same is true for the concept of five aggregates or pañca khandha. The Vedic teachings adopted them as five Skandhas.

      Whose Concepts are Kamma, Nibbāna, Paṭicca Samuppāda, etc.?

      12. A full account requires possibly a whole book. But there are several instances in the Tipitaka where Buddha Gotama explained to various Brahmins that many of their teachings originated with Buddha Kassapa.

      – For example, in the Māgandhiya Sutta (MN 75), Buddha Gotama has a conversation with a Brahmin who quoted a verse from the Vedas. Buddha Gotama then says that verse was initially uttered by Buddha Kassapa and that it come down through generations in the Vedas without the true meaning. I have discussed that in the post, “Arōgyā Paramā Lābhā..“
      – When Prince Siddhartha was born, such Vedic teachings were there. We have a somewhat similar situation right now, with many vital concepts misinterpreted.
      – I mentioned the above because I see in online forums many people wonder whether Buddha Gotama “adopted” Vedic concepts. Those concepts originally came from Buddha Kassapa. But any Buddha discovers them by his own efforts.
      – Then the question comes up as to the “evolution of humans.” There was no evolution of humans. Humans existed on Earth (with Brahma-like bodies) at the beginning of the Earth. This is why it would take a book to discuss all these things. I have given a brief account of the “beginnings” in “Buddhism and Evolution – Aggañña Sutta (DN 27).”


      Furthermore, there is much confusion about the key Pali words anicca and anatta because many people confuse those with Sanskrit words anitya and anatma. There are no words in Sanskrit that provide the same meaning of anicca and anatta. That is discussed in the post that you quoted above.
      – That is why the Buddha said not to translate the Tipitaka, especially to Sanskrit.
      – The idea was to transmit the Tipitaka in Pali and to explain the content in any language.

    • #31156

      Thanks for the reply. I’ll read your recent post in short.

    • #31394

      Following is a brief explanation of the verse: “na, bhikkhave, buddhavacanaṃ chandaso āropetabbaṃ. Yo āropeyya, āpatti dukkaṭassa. Anujānāmi, bhikkhave, sakāya niruttiyā buddhavacanaṃ pariyāpuṇitun”ti

      chandaso = (convert to) Sanskrit verse,  āropetabbaṃ = I declare (as a Vinaya rule)

      Yo āropeyya = whoever breaks that (Vinaya rule), āpatti dukkaṭassa = will be subjected to suffering

      Anujānāmi = I give permission, sakāya niruttiyā buddhavacanaṃ = to provide meanings of Buddha Vacana (Buddha Dhamma) in one’s own dialect

      pariyāpuṇitun = should learn well.

      Therefore, the whole sentence can be translated as:Bhikkhus, I declare that Buddha Dhamma should not be converted to Sanskrit verse (chandaso). Whoever breaks that Vinaya rule will be subjected to suffering. I give permission to express the meanings (nirutti) of Buddha Dhamma in one’s own dialect, to learn it well.”

      The word “chandaso” as “Sanskrit verse” is stated in the following Wikipedia article too: “Sanskrit prosody

      From that article: “Sanskrit prosody or Chandas refers to one of the six Vedangas, or limbs of Vedic studies [1]. It is the study of poetic metres and verse in Sanskrit [1]. This field of study was central to the composition of the Vedas, the scriptural canons of Hinduism, so central that some later Hindu and Buddhist texts refer to the Vedas as Chandas [1,2].”

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