1902 Encyclopedia > Pali


PALI (pronounced Bali by the Siamese) is the name of the literary language of the Buddhists in Ceylon, Burmah, Siam, and Cambodia. Laloubere (Pel. de Siam) is the first European writer who mentions the name, towards the end of the 17th century. Various opinions have been advanced as to the etymology—from path, to read (Mason, Minayeff), or pali =pra + dli (J. D'Alwis, E. Kuhn)—and original meaning of the word. The latter, given as "row," "range," "line," is applied by Trenckner (Pali Misc., i. 69) to the " series" of teachers by whom the text of the sacred tradition was handed down, and, according to the Burmese conception of the word (see Forchhammer's Report for 1879-80, p. 6), to the sacred texts simply, irrespectively of the language or dialect in which they are written; whereas Pali scholars generally use the word less in the sense of sacred canon than in that of the language in which the canon is written (Childers, DAlwis, Fausboll, Oldenberg). The same applies to the synonymous term Tanti. When and where that lan-guage was formed is still a matter of controversy. We quote here only the opinions of the two principal writers on the subject, Professors E. Kuhn and H. Oldenberg. The former, following Westergaard, holds that Pali was the Sanskritic vernacular spoken at Ujjain, the capital of Malava, at the time when Mahendra, the son and successor of the great Asoka, took the sacred canon with him to Ceylon in the form in which it had two years previously received the sanction of the third general council (Beitr. ___ Pdli-Gramm., Berlin, 1875). On the other hand, Professor Oldenberg, rejecting that tradi-tion, considers the naturalization of the Pali language in Ceylon to have been the fruit of a period of long and continued intercourse between that island and the adjacent parts of India, more especially the Kalinga country. Though he does not state within what limits of time that gradual naturalization took place, he records his opinion that at least one portion of the Buddhist canon, the Vinaya, in its present form existed in the Pali language about a hundred and fifty years before Mahendra, that is, about 400 _._. This is in all probability the earliest period that may be assigned to Pali as a literary language (The Vinayapitakam, edited by Oldenberg, vol. i., 1879, Introduction). Both scholars have discussed the question as to the Pali being identical with the Magadhi dialect, and have satisfactorily disposed of it. There can be no doubt that some considerable time must have elapsed before the Pali recension of the canon was completed, and that, as regards the locality of the language, through the contiguity of cognate vernaculars a palpable number of words and word-forms found their way into Pali, enriching alike its vocabulary and its grammatical resources ; or how else could we account for the occurrence of such doublets and triplets as adda, alia (Sanskrit, ardra), avata, avuta (S. avrita), isa, issa, ikka, accha (S. riksha), kiccha, kasira, (S. kricchra), gaddha, giddha, gijjha (S. gridhra), kllu, khela, khidda, (S. Krida), tanha, tasina (trishiia,), tikkhina, tikkha, tinha (S. tikshna), dosina, junha (S. jyotsna), rukkha, vaccha (S. vriksha), sita, mihita (S. smita), sinana, nahana (S. snana), sunisa, sunhá, husá (S. snushá), and for the many alternative forms in the declensions, some of which will presently be specified 1 It is also certain that the very belief in the sacred character of the canon must have tended to preserve the text unchanged in form and substance from the time that it was received in Ceylon till the present day. There is, however, a voluminous literature which has grown around and out of the sacred texts, such as Buddhaghosa's great commentary on them (beginning of the 5th century), and several historical works and their commentaries. In this secondary stage many new words and hybrid grammatical forms, due to what Childers appropriately calls false analogy, have found admission into the language (see Fausboll's Dhammapada, Introduction); and the grammarians who at this period appear to have treated of language after the Sanskrit models enrol them in their scheme as correct and legitimate.

Though tradition (Mahávansa, xii. 6; Buddhavansa, xxii.) makes the introduction of Buddhism into Burmah contemporaneous with the conversion of Ceylon, there is every probability that the event took place at a much later period. It must, however, have taken firm root in Burmah at the time that in consequence of religious persecutions Buddhist priests from Ceylon went to Burmah to obtain a copy of the sacred canon and Buddhaghosa's commentary thereon (5th century of our era). Thence an uninterrupted religious intercourse has been kept up between the two countries up to the present, notwith-standing which certain discrepancies between the Pali texts of Burmah and those of Ceylon point to the fact that the latter retain older forms and expressions, whereas the former replace these by more modern, more common, or more regular ones (Fausboll, Ten Játakas, Introd.). This fact, however, can only be established on a scientific basis when good old copies of grammatical works, both in the Sinhalese and Burmese character, shall have been carefully examined and compared ad hoc. It is certainly true that in Ceylon, where the study of Sanskrit flourishes, and where the people have spoken for upwards of two thousand years an Indo-Aryan idiom, Pali learning has obtained a far firmer and more favourable footing than in Burmah, where the nature of the vernacular places considerable difficulties in the path of the student of the sacred language.

As regards the status of Pali in Siam, no trustworthy information is available. It would appear, however, that Pali MSS. from that country—invariably written in the Cambodian character—are more remarkable for caligraphy than for correctness. Both in Burmah and Ceylon Pali is written in the character of the vernacular. The well-known Manual used at the admission of a novice into the monastic order is almost the only book in which the so-called square character is customary (see Burnouf and Lassen, Essai sur le Pali, Paris, 1826).

Since the days of Prinsep the name of Pali has also been given to the various local dialects, and the name of Pali character to the monumental alphabet, or rather alphabets, in which the so-called Asoka inscriptions are written. The language of these records, it is true, comes nearer to the Pali than to any other early Sanskritic idiom; still it is sufficiently distinct from the language of Buddhist literature to be treated by itself (see E. Senart, Les Inscriptions de Piyadasi, vol. i., Paris, 1881; and G. Biihler, in Z. D. M. G., vol. xxxvii.).

Pali has aptly been said to stand phonetically in the same position to Sanskrit as Italian does to Latin. There is the same tendency to smooth down all sounds difficult of utterance, to assimilate or otherwise simplify compound consonants, and to substitute vocalic or nasal for consonantal word-terminations. More especially, Pali lacks the ri and U vowels and the diphthongs ai and au. The Sanskrit vowel ri generally passes in Pali into a, sometimes also into i or u ; as isi (S. rishi), dalha (S. dridha), putha (S. prithag). E and o, representing S. ai and au respec-tively, can before double consonants be further shortened into i and u, just as other long vowels may be shortened under the same circumstances; thus ussukka (S. autsukya), rattha (S. rashtra). Some anomalous vowel changes are exhibited in the following examples :—kondaniia (S. kaundinya), pana (S. punar), purisa (S. purusha), usu (S. ishu), vinnu (S. vijfia), hettkd (S. adhastat). As regards consonants, Pali has only the dental sibilant, and replaces by anusvara most final consonants of Sanskrit words; as manam (S. manak), sanim (S. sanais), khattum (S. kiitvas). Two or more consonants meeting in the middle of a word are mostly assimilated, as ummagga (S. unrnarga), paibhdra (S. pragbhara). Other changes are pafiha (S. pracna), pallanka (S. paryanka), ddthd (S. damshtra), and of initial consonants lattht (S. yashti), ludda (rudra), nangala (S. langnla), kipillika (S. pipilika), khdnu (S. sthanu). Contraction is very frequent, as well as metathesis, as the following examples will show:—kho (S. khalu), acceka (S. atyayika), dcera (S. acarya), cuddasa (S. eaturdacan), issera (S. aicvarya), abboMra (S. avyavahara). In the Scenic Prakrits and in the Magadhi of the Jains the consonantal decay has reached a much higher stage than it has in Pali, showing that the latter holds its place between the former and the Sanskrit. This applies also to Sandhi, which in Pali is indeed sporadically and irregularly attended to, but shows a tendency to being altogether neglected.

There is no dual in the declension any more than in the con-jugation ; the only remnants of it appear to be to (S. tau) and ubho (S. ubhau). The old dative case is rarely used, and the genitive takes its place. The declension of nouns has in some cases been encroached upon by the pronominal declension. According to the nature of Pali phonology, there cannot be any real consonantal stems, and therefore no regular consonantal declension. Final consonants are either dropped or have an a added to them. In the former case the final consonants reappear before the vowel terminations, in the latter the declension follows the false analogy of the a-declension. Thus, dhimd (S. dhimat) is declined as follows:—Sing.—nom. dhima, dhimanto ; voc. dlumam, dhima, dhima; acc. dhimantam, dhimam; instr. dhjmata, dhiman-tena; dat. gen. dhimato, dhimantassa, dhimassa ; abl. dhimata ; loc. dhimati, dhimante, dhimantasmim, dhimantamhi ; Plur. — nom. voc. dhimanto, dhimanta; acc. dhimante; instr. abl. dhlmantebhi, dhimantehi; dat. gen. dhimatam, dhimautanam; loc. dhimautesu. Examples of multiform cases are the loc. sing, of nadl, which exhibits the forms nadiya, nadiyam, najjam ; the voc. plur. of the honorific pronoun bhavam (S. bhavat), which has bhavanto, bhonto, bhante ; the gen. dat. sing, of pita, which has pitu, pituno, pitussa, and in the plur. pitunam, pitunnam, pitara-nam, pitanam ; the loc. sing, of mano, manam (S. manas), which has nianasi, mane, manasmim, manamhi. The personal pronouns also show a variety of forms, some of which are still traceable in the modern Prakrits. Thus aham has in the plural—nom. vayam, mayam, amhe ; acc. asme, ambe, amhakam ; instr. abl. amhebhi, amhehi; dat. gen. amhakam, amhanam, amham ; loc. amhesu. Similarly, the gen. dat. sing. fem. of the demonstrative pronoun has the forms imissa, imissaya, imaya, assa, assaya.

The Pali verb shows even more than does the noun a tendency to break with the analogy of the Sanskrit. Though native gram-marians arrange the conjugations on a plan similar to that of the Sanskrit, the disorganizing process which pervades the whole of Pali grammar is in no part so advanced as in this particular. Thus, the present tense of the verb thd (S. stha) is thati as well as titthati; of dhd it is dadhati, dahati, and dhati;' of d& dadati, deti, dati, and (by false analogy from the optative dajjam) dajjati; of ji jayati, jeti, and jinati; of bid bhayati; of rudh rundhati, rundhiti, rundhiti, and rundheti; of mar (S. mri) marati and miyati; and of kar (S. kri) the plural has karoma, karotha, karonti, and also regularly kubbanti, from which form again by false analogy a 3d person singular kubbati has been derived. The termination re of the 3d person plural perfect atmanepada has been transferred to the present tense, wdiere it is used along with -ante. But there is a general predilection for the parasmaipada termina-tions, even in the passive. While the perfect sensibly recedes before the other tenses, and is of rare occurrence, the use of the aorist largely encroaches on that of the imperfect, the conjugation of which is in many verbs influenced by the former, as, e.g., in the verb as, in which the imperfect is:—1st sing., asim or asi; 2d and 3d, asi; 1st plur., asimha; 2d, asittha; 3d, asimsu. In the impera-tive par. the 1st sing, and 2d plur. do not differ from the corre-sponding forms of the present. The affixes of the future (-ssa) and passive (-ya) may also be added to the special base; thus we have the forms dakkhati and passissati, "he will see," and gamiyati and gacchiyati, "he is gone to." In the causative verb the form with p greatly preponderates, and may even be added to the special base, as, e.g., sunapeti (S. cravayati), "he informs"; ganhapeti (S. grahayati). Lastly, the gerund in -tvd is not only used in compound verbs in preference to the one in -ya, but may also occasionally be superadded to the hitter for the sake of greater precision.' Thus, sajjitva = sad + y a + i + tva,; and abhiruyhitva= abhiruh + ya + i + tva. Instead of tvd the forms tvdna and tuna often occur. There are two forms of the infinitive, there being besides the usual form in -turn one in -tave, which appears to have lingered in the vernacular long after it was disused in Sanskrit literature.

Literature.—The study of Pali by Europeans is of com-paratively recent date; in fact, our knowledge of the very existence of an extensive Pali literature dates scarcely half a century back. It is true that in 1826 Professors Burnouf and Lassen were enabled, from an examination of certain Pali MSS. which had fallen under their notice, to give a general account of the language; but it was reserved for the late Mr G. Tumour, colonial secretary of Ceylon, to collect the first trustworthy information concerning the sacred books of the island, and to edit and translate the first Pali text of any extent. His choice of the Mahavansa, one of the oldest chronicles, was all the more fortunate, as, in the almost total absence of historical works in Sanskrit literature, these annals were calculated to yield a vast amount of information regarding the origin and earlier history of the Buddhistic religion in India. The book had been ready for the press many years, but was not published till 1837, while a series of articles by the same author, em-bodying the results of his examination of the Mahavansa and its commentary and of the contemporaneous Dipavansa (Jour. Bengal As. Soc., vols. v. and vi.), had been received by Oriental scholars with the utmost interest. The thirty-eight chapters published by him bring the history of Ceylon down to 477 A.D.; they comprise the original work of Malidndma. Six more chapters, ready for the press in text and translation, were found among Tumour's papers at his early death in 1842, and are now in the India office library. The whole Mahavansa, in Pali and Sinhalese, has since been printed at the Government press, Colombo, 1877-83, and an English translation is in progress. How-ever, a critical edition of the earlier part, and more especially of the commentary upon it, is still a desidera-tum. There is an excellent edition and translation of the Dipavansa by Professor Oldenberg (London, 1879), according to whom the work was written between the beginning of the 4th and the first third of the 5th cen-tury. Among the historical works may also be classed the Ddthdvansa, a poetical history of the tooth-relic of Buddha, composed by Dhammakitti early in the 13th cen-tury. The work was printed at Colombo in 1882, and an English translation by M. Kumaraswami appeared in Lon-don in 1874. Further, the Attanagaluvansa, the history of a temple, likewise of the 13th century, edited and trans-lated by J. D'Alwis at Colombo in 1866. Other historical works are described in the catalogues of Pali MSS. Lastly, there exist many mediaeval Pali inscriptions, some of considerable extent, as, e.g., those of Kalyani in Burmah, which are now in course of publication, and are likely to yield valuable historical results. Many of them are accompanied by a translation in Burmese or Talaing,—a language now all but extinct. It is worth noting that neither in Ceylon nor in Cambodia have any old Pali inscriptions been found; in the island the old inscriptions are in Sinhalese, in Cambodia they are in Sanskrit, fre-quently with-a translation in Khmer.

Though there is an old ninefold division (navanga, see Dr R. Morris's " Report on Pali Literature," in Philological Society's Proceedings, 1880) of the canonical scriptures, it is the general practice of Pali scholars to abide by the division into three " baskets " (tipitaka, pitakattaya), first specified by G. Tumour, and then more correctly in Childers's Dictionary, p. 507, viz., the Vinayapitaka, the Suttapitaka, and the Abhidhammapitaka, or the baskets of discipline, of discourses, and of metaphysics. Only the first of these, and at the same time the earliest, has been published in a critical edition in five volumes by Professor Oldenberg, London, 1879-83, while a translation by the same and Mr Rhys Davids is in progress in the Sacred Books of the East. One of its constituent parts, the Pdtimokkha, mentioned already by Laloubere, was edited and translated into Russian by Minayeff (1869); an English translation by Gogerly had appeared thirty years previously in vol. iii. of the Ceylon Friend, and the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1875 brought out a new translation, accompanied by the Pali text, by J. E. Dick-son. Editions of the text have also appeared in Ceylon and Burmah. A ritualistic manual, the Kammavdcd, the first chapter of which was edited by Spiegel with a Latin translation in 1841, was the first Pali text published in Europe. The first of the numerous works composing the Suttapitaka that was made accessible to Pali scholars in Europe was the Dhammapada, or Path to Virtue, a criti-cal edition of which, with a Latin translation and copious extracts from Buddhaghosa's commentary, was brought out by Professor Fausboll, of Copenhagen, in 1855. So popu-lar has this work proved as a type of Buddhistic sentiment that no less than two English translations (by Professor F. Max Miiller in 1870 and 1881, and by Professor J. Gray, of Rangoon, in 1881), one in German (by Professor A. Weber, 1860), and one in French (by M. F. Hu, 1878) have appeared, besides various editions printed at Colombo and Rangoon, with translations into the respective ver-naculars. Other collections of moral maxims also, such as Lokaniti and DhammanUi, appear to be favourite books in Burmah. Of the other works of the Suttapitaka, the Jdtaka Book, an account of the five hundred and fifty previous births of Buddha, has till quite recently absorbed the lion's share of attention on account of its being the oldest extant collection of fables and popular stories, many of which have at an early date found their way to the West, and are still current amongst us. Three volumes of the text of this extensive work, edited by Professor Fausboll, and one volume of the translation, by Professor Rhys Davids, have up to the present appeared, while many of the most interesting tales, in groups of from two to twelve, were separately published by the same editor between the years 1858 and 1872. Other works belonging to the same division which have been published are Khuddakapatha (by Professor Childers, 1869), Buddhavansa and Cariyapitaka (by Dr Morris, 1882), Anguttaranihdya (by the same, 1884), and Majjhimanikdya (by Trenckner, 1884); and a number of others, such as Itivuttaka, Theragdthd, Theri-gdthd, and Apaddna, are, thanks to the active zeal of the working members of the newly founded Pali Text Society, either in progress or in preparation. An edition of Sutta-nipdta, by Professor Fausboll, whose translation of the work appeared in 1881, is also passing through the press. Seven suttas from the Dighanikdya, prepared for publication by the late P. Grimblot, appeared in Paris in 1876; and a number of others, from various collections, edited and translated by L. Feer, are to be found in the Journal Asiatique. An edition, by Professor Childers, of the Mahdparinibbdnasutta, from the Dighanikdya, was pub-lished in 1876, and a translation of the same and other suttas, by Professor Rhys Davids, forms vol. xi. of the Sacred Books of the East. Lastly, Dr Morris has in the press an edition and translation of " the Six Jewels of the Law," one of which is the Mahdsatipatthdnasutta, a favourite text-book in Burmah and Ceylon. The Milinda-paiiha, a work of the middle of the 2d century B.C., a scholarly edition of which we owe to Trenckner (1880), though obviously not a canonical book, may well be classed with this second division. The Abhidhammapitaka has so little in it to attract the European student of Pali that an edition of any of its components parts is not likely to be forthcoming for some time. A compendium of its tenets, the A bhidhamrnatthasangaha, has been frequently printed in the Burmese and in the Sinhalese character.

While in Siam and Ceylon the law-books are in the,vernacular, they are in Burmah in the original Pâli, which is generally accompanied by a Burmese gloss. San Germano translated one of them (see his work on Burmah, p. 173 sq.) in the end of last century. Several of them have in recent years been brought out at Rangoon by Colonel H. Browne, and the oldest of them, by King WTagarn, is passing through the press. The editor, Professor Forchhammer, has also supplied valuable translations to the series of Mr Jardine's Notes on Buddhist Law, which are appearing at Rangoon. A critical edition of the Laws of Manurâja, by Dr Fiihrer, is in the press at Bombay.

The age of the oldest Pâli grammarian, Kaccâyana, is still under dispute ; it is far more likely, however, that it has to be placed towards the end of the 11th century A.D. (see Colonel Fryer's paper in Jour. ,Beng. As. Soc. for 1882) than with J. D'Alwis in the 6th century B.c. While his system is the one which has long been current in Burmah, the grammar by Moggallâna (second half of the 12th century) represents the leading grammatical school of Ceylon. Round both a large number of grammatical works have grown up, more than sixty of which are specified and fully described by Subhuti in the introduction to his book on the Pâli declensions (Nâmamâlâ, Colombo, 1876). M. E. Senart has given an excellent edition and exposition of Kaccâyana's grammar Paris, 1871), some chapters of which had previously been made the subject of separate treatises by J. D'Alwis and Professor E. Kuhn. The first five chapters of the Bâlâratâra were edited and translated by L. F. Lee [Ceylon As. Soc. Jour, for 1870-71), and the sixth chapter of the Rûpasiddhi, another old grammar, was recently published by Dr Griinwedel (Berlin, 1883). The oldest Pâli vocabulary, called Aohidhânappad'qrikâ, and compiled by the above-mentioned Moggallâna on the model of the Amara-kosha, was first printed at Colombo in 1824 as an appendix to Clough's grammar. A better edition, by Subhuti, with English and Sinhalese interpretations, notes, and appendices, appeared in 1865, of which a much improved reissue has just appeared at Colombo, to be followed in a second volume by full alphabetical indices. The Dhâlumanjûsâ, a dictionary of Pâli radicals, by Sîlavansa, was edited with English and Sinhalese translation at Colombo in 1872. Vuttodaya, a work on metre by Sangharakkhita, who is identified with Moggallâna, was first edited and translated by Professor Minayeff of St Petersburg in 1869, and in 1877, as No. II. of his Pâli Studies, by Colonel G. E. Fryer, who had previously, in the first essay (1875), given the text with a full analysis of a work on rhetoric, called Suhodhalank&ra, by the same author.

There are great facilities in Europe for the study of Pâli and ifs extensive literature. The British Museum, the University Library of Cambridge, and the library of the India Office are rich in Pâli MSS., and a catalogue raisonné of the last-mentioned collection, by Professor Oldenberg, is accessible to students. The Royal Library of Copenhagen contains the MSS. which the late Professor K. Bask had brought from India, probably the finest collection in Europe, a catalogue of which was published in 1846. The National Library of Paris is the only one in Europe that possesses, in addition to a large number of MSS. in the Sinhalese and Burmese characters, a fine assemblage of MSS. in Cambodian letters. There are also Pâli MSS. in the museums of learned soc eties and in private hands, and it would be well if means could be devised for bringing these hidden treasures to- light and utilizing them for literary purposes, for the study of the Pâli language and literature lias been making rapid strides within the last ten years. Lecture* on Pâli are delivered at Cambridge, in Paris, and in most of the German univer- sities, and the number of publications of Pâli texts increases year by year. Ic is already admitted that Childers's Dictionary, the publication of which in 1S75> formed an epoch in the study of Pâli, no longer suffices to supply the want, and that a more comprehensive work, or at least a supplementary dictionary, is urgently needed. Clough's Pâti Grammar, which appeared at Colombo in 1824.. found its way to Europe so tardily that it was still unknown to the authors of the Essai sur le Pali when they published their supplement to it in 1827, and it lias always been a scarce book. In 1872 Professor Minayeff brought out at St Petersburg a Pâli grammar, written in Russian, which was translated into French by M. S. Guyard five years later. An English translation made from that French version, by C. G. Adams, appeared at Maulmain in 1882. Meantime- Professor E. Kuhn of Munich published his valuable Beitrâge zur Pâli-Gram- matih (Berlin, 1875), a mine of wealth for all students of the language. It is from this book and from Dr Ed. Miiller's grammar, to be named presently, that most of the examples in the above grammatical sketch have been culled. In 1881 there appeared at Christiania Die Flexion des Pâli in ihrem Verhàltniss zum Sanskrit, by Alf Torp, and last year in London Dr Frankfurter's Handbook of Pâli, being an Elementary Grammar, a C/trestomathy, and a Glossary, at the same time that at Rangoon Professor J. Gray's Elements of Pâli Grammar left the press. The grammar by Dr Ed. Miiller, just published, deserves to be called a pattern of critical scholarship. Much valuable information on grammatical and etymological questions may also be gained from Professor Fr. Miiller's Beitrâge- zur Kenntniss der Pâli-Sprache, Vienna, 1867-69; Dr Morris's "Report on Pâlî Literature," in Proc. Philol. Soc, 1880; and last, not least, V. Trenckner's Pali- Miscellany, part i., Copenhagen, 1879. (R. R.)

The above article was written by: Reinhold Rost, Ph.D, LL.D.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries