June 29, 2017; revised November 9, 2018
1. Pāli is a phonetic language. It does not have its own alphabet. Tipiṭaka was originally written down in Pāli with the Sinhala alphabet.
- Pāli verses are composed for ease of oral transmission. Tipiṭaka was orally transmitted faithfully for several hundred years.
- So, in many cases, root words are hidden in combined words in verses that were composed to rhyme better for easy oral transmission.
2. Rather than trying to find roots in Sanskrit, that is the way to find the roots. As I explained with evidence from the Tipiṭaka, the Buddha prohibited the use of Sanskrit words, or even to translate the Tipiṭaka to Sanskrit; see, “Preservation of the Dhamma“.
- That is because despite some similarities, Sanskrit many words were composed to sound more “impressive”, without paying attention to embedded meanings.
- For example, Pratītyasamutpāda is the Sanskrit term for Paṭicca Samuppāda. Pratītyasamutpāda sounds impressive but the meaning is not clear at all.
- On the other hand, it is clear in pati + icca leading to sama + uppāda; see, “Paṭicca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha”+”Sama+uppāda“.
3. Pāli words are combined in ways to rhyme better. By finding key root-words embedded in such “combined words”, one can easily figure out the meaning.
- “yadaniccam tam dukkham, yam dukkham tadanattā” verse appears in many suttā.
- In order to understand it, we need to “expand it” or “unfold it”: “yad aniccam tam dukkham, yam dukkham tad anattā“.
- Now the meaning becomes clear: “anicca nature leads to dukkha, dukkha nature leads to anatta nature”; see, “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta – Wrong Interpretations“.
4. The following are some examples of combination of words to make a verse rhyme better for oral transmission.
Naidham = na idham or “not the case”.
Ayamantimā jāti = ayam +antima + jāti or “my last birth”.
Nūppajjāti = na + uppajjāti: “will not arise”.
Cittappasāda = citta + pasāda; note the two p’s in the combined word that allow it to rhyme better.
Similarly in: Rupakkhandha = rupa khandha: “rupa aggregate”.
Aveccappasāda = ava icca pasāda or “faith that leads to overcoming taṇhā (attachment)”.
Buddha = bhava + uddha: one who figured out how to stop existences (bhava) from arising.
Bhavaṅga = bhava + anga; intrinsic aspect of bhava.
Sakkāya = sath + kāya: good collections usually referring to the five aggregates. Sakkāya diṭṭhi is the view that the five aggregates should be embraced.
Anāpāna = āna + āpāna: “taking in” and “putting out”.
Note the pronunciation of the following words sort of backwards to rhyme better:
- Anāgāmi = na āgāmi: not coming back (in reference to not to come back to kāma lōka for a person who has attained the Anāgāmi stage of Nibbāna.
- Anatimāna = na + atimāna: atimāna is “high-mindedness” and anatimāna is opposite or “humble”.
5. Just by knowing what is meant by the root “san“, many Pāli words can be understood easily; see, “What is “San”? Meaning of Sansara (or Samsara)“.
- Note that some words are written and pronounced with emphasis on “m” rather than “n”, because it rhymes better that way; a good example is samsāra (sansāra) which can be written and pronounced either way.
- On the other hand, sammā comes from “san” + “mā“, but always pronounced as “sammā“, because it rhymes easier that way; eg., sammā diṭṭhi, sammā saṅkappa, etc.
- It must be kept in mind that “san” has various levels. First one needs to remove ‘san‘ that lead to immoral activities that can lead to births in the apāyās; after one becomes a Sōtapanna, one should strive to eliminate “san” involving sense pleasures; after becoming an Anāgāmi, the goal is to remove “san” associated with rupa and arupa jhāna. I only stated “sense pleasures” in the Table.
6. I plan to add another table for Pāli words with a few more key “roots”.
Pāli Words with “San” Root
|Pāli Word||Roots||Meaning of added |
|Meaning of whole word|
|Sammā||san + mā||mā means to "remove"||associated with removing "san"|
|sammāpaṭipatti||san + mā +patipatti||patipatti is a process||method or effort to remove "san"|
|sammāvimutti||san + mā + vimutti||vimutti is complete release||Arahant phala; Nibbana|
|Sammanti||san + mā||like gaccā to gaccanti||attaining peacefulness by removing "san"|
|samantanō||san + anta; rhymes like samananta||anta is end||a process that gets rid of "san"|
|Sammā ditthi||Sammā + ditthi||ditthi is vision (here to see Tilakkhana)||clear vision to see danger of (and how to remove) "san"|
|Sammā sankappa||Sammā + sankappa||sankappa are conscious/unconscious thoughts||thoughts to removing "san"|
|Sammā vācā||Sammā + vācā||vācā is conscious thoughts/speech||speech to remove "san"|
|Sammā kammanta||Sammā + kammanta||kammanta is actions||bodily actions to remove "san"|
|Sammā ajīva||Sammā + ajīva||ajīva is way one lives||living style to remove "san"|
|Sammā vāyāma||Sammā + vāyāma||vāyāma is effort||effort to remove "san"|
|Sammā sati||Sammā + sati||sati is mindfulness (about Tilakkhana)||mindfulness to remove "san"|
|Sammā samādhi||Sammā + samādhi||samādhi is the state of equanimity (sama + adhi)||state of samādhi resulting from removing "san"|
|Sambhava||san + bhava||bhava is existence||existence due to "san"|
|Sambuddha||san + bhava + uddha||uddha is rooting out||one who rooted out existence in 31 realms|
|Sambōdhi||state attained by a sambuddha; Nibbana|
|Sambhūta||san + bhūta||bhūta refers to satara maha bhūta||creation of bhūta via "san" in the mind; The Origin of Matter – Suddhashtaka|
|Sammapañña||samma + pañña||pañña is wisdom||wisdom to see the way to remove "san"|
|Emphasizing the achievement of sambodhi on one's own||reserved for the Buddhas|
|Sammatta||san+mā+atta||atta means the "truths leading to samma"||Sammatta niyama is a knowledge of a Sotapanna.|
|Sambojjanga||san +bodhi+anga; rhymes as sambojjanga||"anga" means factors||Factors that lead to Sambodhi|
|san + pajāna||pajāna is to comprehend||to figure out defilements (san)|
|sammappadhāna||san + mā+ padhāna||mā is to remove; padhāna means "first"||first to do to remove "san"|
|Sambandha||san + bandha||bandha is to bind, associate with||bind with someone/something with "san"|
|sambhāvitā||san + bhāvitā||bhāvitā is to use||engage in "san" or sense pleasures|
|Sambhēda||san + bhēda||bhēda means to quarrel||fighting over pleasurable things or "san"|
|Sambhīta||san + bhīta||bhīta means to terrify||"san" leading to terror (in mind or in future births)|
|Sambhōga||san + bhōga||bhōga means pleasurable things, especially food||sense pleasures|
|Sambhunjati||san + bhunja||bhunja means to eat or consume||engage in sense pleasures|
|sammoha||san + moha||moha is delusion||extreme delusion|
|sampādesi / sampādeta||san + pādēsi||pādēsi is to sort out and see||to clarify what is "san", as in "vaya dhammā sankhāra, appamādēna sampādēta".|
|sampahansēti||san +pahāna||pahāna is to remove||to remove "san"|
|sampaññō||san + paññō||paññō means with wisdom, possessive of paññā||attained wisdom to see 'san"|
|Sampajāna||san + pajāna||pajāna is to clarify||sort out or to clarify "san"|
|sampayōga||san + payōga||payōga is a clever plan to get something done||plan to access a pleasurable thing|
|Samphassa||san + phassa||contact with san (in the mind)||Vedana (Feelings) Arise in Two Ways|
|Sampassati||san + passati||passati means to comprehend||comprehend "san'|
|sankiliṭṭha or saṃkiliṭṭha||san + kilittha||kilittha is to defile||making mind defiled by adding "san"|
|sankilesa or saṃkilesa||san + kilesa||kilesa are defilements||things that defile the mind|
|Samsāra (Sansāra)||san + sāra||sāra means "good"||perception that san (things in this world) are good.|
|san + sēva||sēva means to "associate"||to indulge in worldly pleasures|
(as in samuccēda pahāna)
|san + uccēda||uccēda means to "remove from the roots"; pahāna is remove||samuccēda pahāna means to "get rid of permanently"|
|saṃyōga or sanyōga||san + yōga||yōga is to bind||bound with "san" (to this world)|
|saṃyōjanā or sanyōjanā||san + yō +ja||"yo' is to bind; "ja" is to produce||factors that leads to bonds to rebirth process|
|samudaya||san + udaya||udaya is to arise||arising due to "san"|
|Samutthāna||san + utthāna||utthāna means "where it arises"||Samutthāna citta is same as cittaja; where "san" originates (mind)|
|samvāsa or sanvāsa||san + vāsa||vāsa live with||live together; sexual intercourse|
|Samvara (Sanvara)||san + vara||vara means to stop, avoid||moral behavior|
|Samvaddha||san + vaddha||vaddha is to "grow"||to add "san", i.e., defilements|
|Samvannanā||san + vannanā||vannanā is to praise||to praise immoral acts|
|san + vattana||vattana is to "drop"||aiding in removing "san"|
|samvēdanā or sanvēdanā||san + vēdanā||vēdanā is to feel||feelings due to "san": samphassa jā vēdanā|
|saṃvidhāna or sanvidhāna||san + vidhāna||vidhāna means ordering||giving orders, organize (normally used mundanely)|
|saṃsaraṇa or sansaraṇa||san + sarana||sarana means move around, travel||wandering in samsara|
(as in Samyutta Nikāya)
|san + yutta||yutta means "contains"||Suttas in the Samyutta Nikāya explain "san" terms|
|Sancetanā||san + cetanā||cetanā is intention (in a thought)||defiled thoughts|
|sanditthika||san + ditthi||ditthi is seeing, vision||seeing "san" with Buddha Dhamma|
|Sangāyanā||san + gāyanā||gāyanā is to recite||Buddhist Council where suttas describing "san" are recited.|
|Sanga||san + ga||ga is to attach,||attach to "san"|
|Sangati||san + gati||gati is character, habit||bad character/habits|
|Sangha||san + gha||gha is to remove||Those who have removed "san" belong to Sanhga; Nobles or Ariyas, but usu. include bhikkhus|
|Sāṅghika||possessive of Sangha||offered to Sangha|
|Sangīta (Sangeetha)||san + gīta||gīta is a poem, song||music that bend mind towards sense pleasures|
|sankalpana or sankappa||san + kalpana||kalpnana means conscious thoughts||defiled thoughts|
|sankhitta||san + kitta||kitta is action (kriya)||anything done with 'san' (defilements) in mind|
|Sansun||san + sûn (û rhymes like put)||sûn means to destroy||calming the mind via removing "san"|
|Sanvara||san + vara||vara is to stay away from||discipline via staying away from "san", i.e., moral behavior|
|sanvēga or samvēga||san + vēga||vēga is speed or rapidity||enhanced javana of a citta due to "san", i.e., highly emotional|
|sankhāra||san + kāra||kāra is action (all actions are initiated via thoughts)||Sankhara – What It Really Means|
|Sankata||san + kata||kata is a result||produced via sankhāra; anything in this world|
|Sansāra (Samsāra)||San + Sāra||Sāra is good, beneficial||What is “San”? Meaning of Sansara (or Samsara)|
|Santāpa||san + tāpa||tāpa is heat||heating of the mind due to "san"|
|Santutti (or Santhutti)||san + thutti||thutti is to remove: Arogya Parama Labha..||ease of mind when "san" removed; but commonly used to indicate happiness|