http://www.UrbanDharma.org ...Buddhism for Urban America


The Urban Dharma Newsletter... June 30, 2003


In This Issue:

2. The Pali Cannon ...www.BuddhaMind.info
3. A Summary of the Major Text Divisions
4. The Pali Language: ‘Did the Buddha speak Pali?’
5. A Guide to Learning the Pali Language
...by John Bullitt
6. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
The Pali Text Society
7. Book Review: A New Course in Reading Pali:
Entering the Word of the Buddha
...by James W. Gair, W. S. Karunatillake


2. The Pali Cannon ...www.BuddhaMind.info


Two thousand five hundred years ago the Buddha wandered the Ganges plains of Northern India. For over 45 years he taught a means of spiritual liberation to all who sought guidance. The power of his teaching was such that a great many of his discourses have survived to this day. Collectively they are known as the Canon and are often referred to as the Tipitaka or 'three baskets'.

The three baskets, or groups, are:

Vinaya Pitaka, Which is concerned with the rules of discipline governing the order of monks and nuns.

Sutta Pitaka, A vast collection divided into five major sections called 'nikaya'. These mainly deal with aspects of doctrine, the Buddha's teaching.

Abhidhamma-pitaka - Comprised of seven works which are a systematic exposition of the whole of the works found in the Sutta-pitaka. A philosophical, psychological treatment of the teaching.

As Buddhism evolved over the centuries many quite distinct schools arose, each having a version of the scriptures. For Theravadin Buddhists the standard reference point is the Pali version and I will confine my discussion to this. One of the main teachings of the Buddha was on impermanence and scriptural records are no less exempt from change than any other thing. Working as much as possible from the Tipitaka and from the research of others I will offer some reflection on the possible evolution of the Buddha's teaching as we currently encounter them.

My investigation fell under two headings: the general historical development, and, also historical, but much more specific, the relation of the Pali language to the teachings. My aim is not to provide any scholarly proof but more an exploration of these two topics in the hope of stimulating further interest. Brevity in a such a broad topic as this can not hope to avoid some distortion but ideally all reference to Dhamma is "ehipassiko" - encouraging of (further) investigation.

History and Doctrine:

A common area of doubt is the 500 or so years between the death of the Buddha and the writing down of the scriptures. I will first reflect how the situation may have been during the Buddha's life, and second, consider the three great councils which endeavoured to stabilise the teaching at various periods after the Buddha's death.

The Text was preserved in oral form until about 80 BC and then recorded in writing at Aluvihara, Sri Lanka. Some portions may have been written earlier, as writing was not unknown before this time, but suffered from a lack of  'permanent' writing materials. The oldest reference to writing is in a tract called the 'Silas', dated approximately 450 BC. In this Text we see writing praised as a "distinguished art" and there is reference to a monk "scratching a writing". Literature would have been limited to official notices and small, private communications. So the teaching of the Buddha was an oral one and over the years as it developed and expanded it became necessary not only to listen but to learn.

In the Text we see that: "here a monk has mastered the Teaching, thus heard he teaches others in detail, he makes others recite in detail, he makes them repeat in detail". One question that arises is the feat of memory involved in preserving such an extensive body of teaching orally for so long. This seems extraordinary but was apparently quite usual in ancient India. Here are some modern statistics regarding memory: In 1949 oral examinations on the texts were offered in Burma. During the first 30 years, 67 monks separately recited the five volumes of the Vinaya; 265 monks the 16 volumes of the Suttas and well over 300 had perfect recall of an entire nikaya. One consideration regarding memory is that an illiterate community, such as largely existed at the time of the Buddha, would have greatly strengthened other means of recording and transmitting information. (Sitting here with a mega Mb computer I don't need to remember anything!) A parallel to this suggestion is found in the highly developed sense of hearing which blind people develop.

During his 45 years of teaching the Buddha must have standardised certain methods of offering the teaching. Those monks and nuns close to him would have had little trouble remembering such forms, especially allowing that many of them were enlightened and the subject matter would have been completely understood. The repetition in the Suttas would indicate the Buddha used the principle all teachers use: "tell them what you are going to say, then say it, then tell them what you have said." The second source of repetition is the oral tradition itself, seen observed in oral literature all over the world. Each discourse that the Buddha gave would also have been the subject of later discussion by those present and to decide what form the discourse should later be taught in, the Sangha would have chosen how to condense what had been said, which superfluous matters to remove if any, and how to crystallise those aspects of the teaching repeatedly found - the four noble truths, restraint of the faculties, mindfulness, and so on. They would have been trying to couch the whole of the discourse into a set pattern conducive to memorisation, introducing as much repetition and reiteration as possible.

This would seem to suggest an organised structure of systematisation, but the teachings were not offered as a mechanistic, impersonal explanation. They were directed to a person, in a real situation, as advice on how to live. The whole purpose of the Buddha's teaching was not to establish a metaphysical position or evolve some complex philosophy, but to lead individuals to see something about themselves. For example, in the Text he energetically refutes the accusation by Sunakkhata (a recently disrobed monk) that "the recluse Gotama teaches Dhamma on a system of his own devising, beaten out by reason, based on empirical knowledge." However, even during the life of the Buddha, Sutta organisation must have been in an embryonic form and we see in the Text reference to "dhammadhara, vinayadhara, matikadhara", (those who learn the teaching, the discipline and the summaries).

The Suttas never refer to themselves as nikayas, although we find reference to nine divisions of text; "Suttas, mixed prose and verse, expositions, verses, solemn utterances, sayings, birth stories, marvels and catechisms". This system was probably more a reflection of the tradition of the times and 'adopted' rather than 'invented' by the Buddha's disciples. It is quite probable that the senior disciples, and not the Buddha, were most concerned and instrumental in preserving various discourses. However, not long before his death, the Buddha exhorts Cunda: "those of you to whom I have taught the truths that I have realised, must come together and recite the teaching together - without quarrelling; comparing meaning with meaning and sentence with sentence, in order that this pure doctrine may exist and continue for a long time". One must assume that by this time quite specific things to 'recite and compare' had been formulated.

As time passed the Sangha would have dispersed and each group of monks would have had its stock of favourite Suttas, both by way of subject and style. Most communities would have had within their ranks those who could recite one version or another of standard topics. Each group would have had an area of interest: for example, the monks at Kosambi would relate to the discourses given there, those having problems with anger would have had special interest in Suttas on this topic, nuns would have had a special interest in teachings about nuns, and so forth. So with probably no major planning or discussion, collections of discourses came to be grouped quite naturally.

3. A Summary of the Major Text Divisions


The Vinaya Pitaka: is concerned with the rules of discipline governing the order of monks and nuns.

It is divided into three sections:

• 1) Suttavibhanga: detailing the 227 rules for monks and the equivalent rules for nuns.

• 2) Khandhaka: rules of community adjudication.

• 3)Parivara: a summary of rules as a catechism (added later).

The Sutta-pitaka: A vast collection, containing many of the Buddha’s discourses, and teachings in general.

It is divided into five major sections called ‘nikaya'.

1) Digha-nikaya - divided into three sub-sections called 'vagga'

       1. silakkhandha vagga (13 suttas)- deals extensively with various types of morality.

       2. mahavagga (10 suttas) - deals largely with historical and biographical aspects. Contains the Mahaparinibbana-sutta and the Mahasatipatthana-sutta.

       3. Pathika vagga ( 11 suttas) - a miscellaneous collection.

• 2) Majjhima-nikaya - fifteen vagga, 152 suttas. This section is felt to contain the core teachings. Shows the social, economic & political life of those days.

3) Samyutta-nikaya - five vaggas, sub-divided into 56 samyuttas. About 3000 suttas in total.

       1. sagatha vagga - grouped according to the characters appearing in them, e.g. the king of the devas, Brahma, Mara, King of Kosala.

       2. nidana vagga - deals with fundamental aspects of the doctrine, notably 'paticcasamuppada', (dependant origination).

       3. khandha vagga - on the 5 aggregates. There is also important discussion on 'atta' and 'anatta', the teaching on the impersonality of all existance.

       4. salayatana vagga - ayatana = 'base' or 'source' on which the mental processes depend. 12 in all (i.e. five physical senses and mind with their respective objects).

       5. maha vagga - The titles of the12 samyuttas clearly indicate the subject. E.g. the eightfold path, 7 factors of enlightenment, 4 foundations of mindfulness, 5 spiritual faculties, 4 roads to power, 5 powers, 4 noble truths, etc.

4) Anguttara-nikaya - Eleven major groupings called 'nipatas', sub-divided into vagga, and again sub-divided into suttas. A total of 2,308 suttas in all. A progressive numerical collection, one's up to eleven's.

5) Khuddaka-nikaya - this nikaya appears to have grown up gradually after the older nikayas were closed, and was probably incorporated into the canon later.

The Abhidhamma-pitaka: A philosophical, psychological treatment of the dhamma consisting of seven works which are a systematic exposition of the whole of the works found in the Sutta-pitaka. During the third council at Pataliputta (Patna) in 253 BC under the patronage of Emperor Asoka much scholastic work was added and in the course of the next two centuries this led to what we now call the Abhidhamma.

Pali language

Pali is one of ancient Indic languages, spoken in the Middle period. The Buddhist Canon in Sri Lanka is written in Pali, so the language is still used as a sacred one in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. But its homeland is India, and Pali originally was one of western dialects which later acquired certain eastern characteristics. Later together with Buddhism it spread within the South Eastern Asia, and many scientific, religious and literature works were written in it already when in India it was forgotten.

There are in fact four kinds of Pali: the Canon Pali, the literature Pali, the commentary Pali and the modern Pali; the last one has got a significant number of local borrowings and peculiarities and is no longer classical. Pali phonetics is rather simple: 5 simple vowels, no diphthongs and sonant vowels, aspirated and non-aspirated consonants. Pali phonetic laws prohibit the usage of a great number of fricative consonants together, all words end in a vowel.

In morphology the number of vowel interchanges decreased in comparison with Sanskrit; there is a trend of unification of types of noun declension and verb conjugation, and the number of cases is six at maximum. The verb has only three tenses and two aspects: ancient Indic languages Vedic and Sanskrit used much more of them. The system of syntax is well developed and uses many auxiliary parts of speech in analytical constructions.

Pali is interesting for its vocabulary which is totally unnatural and is created only in order to reflect the ideas of the religion.

4. The Pali Language: "Did the Buddha speak Pali?"


A question often asked is: "Did the Buddha speak Pali?"

If so, how much of the original language has been retained? If not, how much has translation affected the accurate transmission of the teachings? There seems to be no one answer to these questions but I offer the following as the results of my investigation.

The paramount power in India for two centuries, spanning both before and after the Buddha, was the Kingdom of Kosala, of which the Buddha's birth kingdom, Magadha, was a fiefdom. Magadhi seems to be a dialect of Kosalan, and there is some evidence that this was the language that the Buddha spoke. The Pali of the Canon seems to be based on the standard Kosalan as spoken in the 6th and 7th centuries BC. The script used on the rock edicts of Asoka is a younger form of this standard. On one of the Asoka pillars (about 300 BC) there is a list of named Suttas which can be linguistically placed within the Singhalese Canon.

Sanskrit was also widely spoken and warrants discussion. It seems to have been the language of the Brahmin's, the 'spiritual' class. It is etymologically older than Pali but, as regards texts and inscriptions, the native tongue (Kosalan) was the more common or popular medium. In the Text we see the Buddha encouraging his disciples to teach in the popular language of any area. However after the Buddha's death, what were considered more 'learned' forms were gradually made use of, despite the fact that these gave a less faithful picture of the living speech. Slowly the efforts to represent the real facts of the spoken language gave way to another effort, the expression of learned phraseology, until roughly 300 AD, classical Sanskrit became used exclusively in relation to Buddhism. This trend is reflected in the scripture of later Buddhist traditions.

The use of Pali is practically confined to Buddhist subjects, and then only in the Theravada school. It's exact origin is the subject of much learned debate and from the point of view of the non-specialist, we can think of it as a kind of simplified, common man's Sanskrit. The source of the Pali Text we have lies in the North of India. It is definitely not Singhalese in origin as it contains no mention of any place in Sri Lanka, or even South India. The similes abounding in the Singhalese literature are those of a sub-tropical climate and of a great river valley rather than those of a tropical island.

Being an essentially oral language, lacking a strong literary base of its own, it adopted the written script of each country it settled in. It is clear that by the time the Text arrived in Sri Lanka, with Asoka's son Mahinda, about 240 BC, it was considered closed.


Any historical study is much like a jigsaw puzzle. Piecing together information from a scrap of parchment here, a clay tablet there; comparing various bits of antiquity, the opinions and insights of others; analysing and evaluating - and then - coming to a conclusion. The more Buddhist history books I studied, to try and determine precise information, the more opinions I ended up collecting. History, it seems, can be very much a matter of opinion.

Very few undisputed facts exist by which to prove the authenticity of the Pali Canon. Even the dates of the Buddha are questionable. The earliest reliable dates in Indian history that we have are those for Emperor Asoka's rule; 274 - 236 BC. We can also be relatively certain that the Text remained unchanged from the time it was written down, about 80 BC.

As regards the reliability of the Text I felt two items to be of greatest importance.

• Firstly: The reason that anything survives the rigours of more than 2000 years of history is that it is considered to be of great value. Presumably the reason for this evaluation was that the teaching was seen to work, i.e. to lead to the transcendence of suffering. Such a known treasure would have been well guarded and part of this protection would have been a tremendous concern for retaining the 'jewel' in its entirety, i.e. accurately.

• Secondly: After several centuries of travelling to many different lands and being translated into different languages, the disparity between the various renderings of the main Text existing today in Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan is typically greatest in matters of least importance. Only very rarely are differences founded on doctrinal matters. It can be seen that these works are clearly not independent compositions, being very similar in their substantive content. This ‘authenticity by comparison' is an important item in support of scriptural accuracy. More specifically, the Vinaya is almost without exception, identical in every Buddhist tradition.

On a more general note:

I feel that the majority of us who have come to give the Text some consideration, originally set out in search of a guide by which to find a way to resolve the root-problem of our personal existence. The process of production warrants investigation but surely the true test of any guide book is its ability to lead one to the desired destination. The whole energy behind the Buddha's teaching was the ending of suffering. If what you glean from the Text eases or ends your suffering then the teaching has been accurately transmitted. What is of greatest importance is to take the teachings that seem relevant, that feel applicable to your life, and to make them a personal reality, to turn the theory into practice.

5. A Guide to Learning the Pali Language
...by John Bullitt


How to learn Pali

It's not difficult to learn a little Pali through self-study, using a textbook or two or three as a guide. Many people find it helpful (not to mention just plain more fun) to study with others, either in a formal classroom setting or in an informal Pali study group. For many of us, the goal is not to become expert scholars and translators of the language, but simply to become acquainted with the basics of the language so as to enrich our personal understanding of the suttas and the Buddha's teachings. For self-study, Warder's Introduction to Pali or de Silva's Pali Primer are the basic texts. Johansson's Pali Buddhist Texts Explained to the Beginner is also useful.

Formal classroom courses in Pali are offered at many universities with strong Eastern Religions departments, as well as several Buddhist studies centers and institutes. Some university-level Pali courses require previous acquaintance with Sanskrit. If you are looking for a Pali teacher, consider asking around at a university to see if there might be a graduate student willing to tutor you or your study group, perhaps for a small fee. Also, some professors may be willing to let you audit a course without going through the official university registration process.

There are a number of good websites offering Pali resources that may be of help in your search for Pali teachers and study aids.


Coping with Pali diacritical marks and fonts

Diacritical Marks

Alas, there is no standardized method for displaying Pali's accented characters on computer screens. Over the years, many different methods have been adopted in an attempt to express Pali diacritics using the limited character sets available to personal computers. Some of these strategies are:

* Ignore them altogether. This is the method generally used here at Access to Insight (although I have used the palatal nasal ñ because it is easily implemented using HTML). For example, the first precept would be written thus:

panatipata veramani sikkha-padam samadiyami.

* The Velthuis scheme: double the vowels, punctuate the consonants. This scheme was originally developed in 1991 by Frans Velthuis for use with his "devnag" Devanagari font, designed for the TEX typesetting system (see » http://www.ctan.org/). Pali and Sanskrit scholars have since adopted it as a standard technique in Internet correspondence (see, for example, the » BUDDHA-L discussion group and the » Journal of Buddhist Ethics). In the Velthuis scheme two basic rules are observed:

* Long vowels (those usually typeset with a macron (bar) above them) are doubled: aa ii uu

* For consonants, the diacritic mark precedes the letter it affects. Thus, the retroflex (cerebral) consonants (usually typeset with a dot underneath) are: .r .t .th .d .dh .n .m .s .l. The guttural nasals (m or n with a dot above) are represented by "m and "n . The palatal nasal (n with a tilde) is ~n.

This scheme is precise, although it does take some getting used to:

paa.naatipaataa verama.nii sikkhaa-pada.m samaadiyaami.

* Fake it using HTML. HTML has a few characters that take care of some of the letters OK. For the long vowels you can use some sort of accent: ä ï ü, à ì ù, â î û etc. The palatal n is straightforward: ñ. Whatever method you adopt, be consistent. Example:

pâ.nâtipâtâ verama.nî sikkhâ-pada.m samâdiyâmi.

* Use capital letters. Capitalized letters represent letters with an accompanying diacritic. This method is simple, but it has ambiguities (e.g., how to distinguish between palatal and guttural n?). Example:

pANAtipAtA veramaNI sikkhA-padaM samAdiyAmi.


There are several Pali fonts available for both Macintosh and Windows computers. K.R. Norman's Pali fonts (TrueType and PostScript versions, for Mac and Windows) are good -- and free:

* Macintosh users: download the self-extracting archive NORM.SEA.HQX.

Use Stuffit Expander or some other utility to un-Binhex this file (if necessary), then double click on the file NORM.SEA. This will create a folder on your hard disk containing the fonts you need. To intsall the fonts, simply drag the font suitcases and the PostScript printer files into your system folder.

* PC users: download the zipped archive NORMAN.ZIP.

Unzip this file, yielding the Truetype fonts "Normyn.ttf" and its italic equivalent "Mytymes.ttf". Install these fonts according to the instructions in your Windows manual.

Alec McAllister's popular "LeedsBit PaliTranslit" font is in widespread use on the Internet. McAllister told me that he regards this font as obsolete, and instead prefers its newer incarnation, "LeedsTranslit2," which is available free of charge (for non-commercial purposes only) from the » University of Leeds website. (This is a Windows-compatible TrueType font. I haven't figured out how to get it to work on a Macintosh.)

Pierre Robillard's "DPalatino" and "DTimes" fonts (for Macintosh computers) are excellent, and have been used for many years by Wisdom Publications. Many of their books, including The Long Discourses of The Buddha, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, and The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, were set in "DPalatino". Several years ago these fonts were available as part of Robillard's "Tibetan on the Macintosh" font package, at a cost of about US$70 from Snow Lion Publications (PO Box 6483, Ithaca, NY 14851-6483; Tel: 800-950-0313 or 607-273-8519).


Pali language textbooks

There are quite a few Pali books out there, but so far none surpasses the breadth and depth of A.K. Warder's superb Introduction to Pali. de Silva's Pali Primer, a relative newcomer to the Pali textbook scene, offers a light and refreshing complement to the high-density Warder. If you're trying to learn Pali on your own, it can be helpful to have several books to turn to, as each offers its unique perspective on the language.

* Introduction to Pali, by A.K. Warder

London: Pali Text Society, 1963; rev. 1991

464pp, with exercises.

About $13 from Pariyatti Book Service, Seattle. Companion cassette tape also available.

Known popularly as "Warder," this is the standard Pali textbook widely used today. It is systematic and thorough, ideally suited to those with some prior familiarity with basic linguistic concepts (case, declension, gender, etc.) or to the motivated newcomer. Although beginners may at first find some of Warder's explanations impenetrable, it's still the best overall Pali textbook around.

The companion cassette tape is well worth purchasing, as it gives the student a good idea of what "real" spoken Pali should sound like.

The newest edition of the book contains answers to many of the exercises. If you own a copy of one of the earlier editions, you might want to have a look at some of the answers to the exercises.

* Pali Primer, by Lily de Silva

Igatpuri, India: Vipassana Research Institute, 1994


Vipassana Research Institute


Igatpuri 422403

Maharashtra, India

Available by mail order via the Pariyatti Book Service.

This is a nice first book for those who think they're not ready yet for Warder. Each chapter focuses on a single concept of Pali grammar, and contains numerous exercises. I found, though, that there comes a point in the book (somewhere around Lesson 11) when the brief grammatical introductions in the beginning of the lessons begin to fall short. In particular, there is no explanation of word order in Pali sentences. At this point, Warder -- or a teacher -- can come to the rescue. An Appendix to the book, containing solutions to the exercises, is forthcoming from the publisher.

* Pali Buddhist Texts Explained to the Beginner, by Rune E.A. Johansson

Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies Monograph Series, No. 14. London: Curzon Press, 1981


This book consists of 52 short chapters, each consisting of a brief passage from the Pali Canon along with a word-for-word grammatical analysis and translation. Useful to the student with some prior grasp of the fundamentals of Pali, or when used in parallel with Warder (above). It also stands well on its own for newcomers who wish to develop a "feel" for the language. An excellent 25-page summary of Pali grammar appears in the back of the book. The book has been difficult to find in the US lately, although it has surfaced in bookshops in Britain and Asia. If you can't find it, write to the publisher: Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies, Kejsergade 2, DK-1155 Copenhagen K.

* A New Course in Reading Pali: Entering the Word of the Buddha

New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1998

207pp. ISBN 81-208-1440-1 cloth, 81-208-1441-x paper. About $20.

I haven't seen this one yet, although I've heard several favorable reports about it. From the dust jacket (courtesy of Henry Grossi):

This book is intended to serve as an introduction to the reading of Pali texts. For that purpose it uses authentic readings especially compiled for the purpose drawn largely from Theravada canonical works, both prose and poetry. The readings are in Roman script, and carefully graded for difficulty, but they have also been selected so that each of them is a meaningful and complete reading in itself, so as to introduce some basic concepts and ways of thought of Theravada Buddhism. This book thus offers an opportunity to become acquainted with the ways in which the teachings of the Buddha are embodied in the language; a sense that is impossible to determine from English translations. The book contains 12 lessons. Each of them has three parts: (1) a set of basic readings and an accompanying glossary, (2) grammatical notes on the forms of the lesson, and (3) a set of further readings with its own glossary. The further readings introduce no new grammatical points, but reinforce ones already presented and give further practice in them. The work concludes, fittingly, with the Buddha's first sermon, The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. A cumulative glossary and index to the grammar is also provided.

* An Elementary Pali Course, by Narada Thera

Second edition, 1952.

Online version available from the Pali Language Sources and Resources website.

* The New Pali Course -- Parts I & II, by A.P. Buddhadatta

1937; 268pp.

Available for about $4 + shipping from the Buddhist Cultural Centre, Sri Lanka.

Topics are arranged systematically in short, digestible chunks (e.g., "The Alphabet," "Pronunciation," "Parts of Speech").

Sometimes more explanation would be helpful. Lots of good exercises, but no answers are given. This would work best in a teacher-led course, rather than as a tool for self-study.

* Pali Language by E. Muller

Delhi: Bharatiya Book Corporation, 1986

144pp. Available at bookstores in Asia.

A compact grammar, written in 1884. Sanksrit students may find it useful, as it compares and contrasts Pali and Sanskrit at every turn. Not recommended for the rank beginner.

* A Pali Grammar, by N.C. Vidyabhushan and M.K. Ghose

Calcutta: Kiron Moy Ghose, 1982

90pp. Available at bookstores in Asia.

Another Pali grammar, similar to The New Pali Course, above, but without any exercises. Useful as a compact reference book after you've learned the basics.


Pali language reference books

* Buddhist Dictionary, by Nyanatiloka Thera

Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1988

260pp. About $20, from Pariyatti Book Service, and the Buddhist Publication Society.

This one is a classic. It's a fascinating mixture of Pali and English words, arranged in English word order (e.g., "Killing... Kiñcana... Kiriya... Knowledge..."). Most entries have thorough explanations with references to passages in the Pali Canon. Excellent tool for beginner and veteran, alike.

* Concise Pali-English Dictionary, by A.P. Buddhadatta

Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989

295pp. Available by mail from the publisher: Motilal Banarsidass, Bungalow Road, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi 110 007, India.

Very handy for quickly finding the meaning of a word, without the detailed grammatical and contextual analysis offered by the Pali-English Dictionary.

* English-Pali Dictionary, by A.P. Buddhadatta

London: Pali Text Society, 1979

588pp. $48 through Wisdom Publications.

What are the various Pali words for "mind"? How do you say "penknife" in Pali? (!) This handy book can be particularly valuable when exploring Pali-English translations -- your own or others'.

* Pali-English Dictionary

London: Pali Text Society, 1986

754pp. About $40, from Pariyatti Book Service.

The primary table-top reference tool for the Pali student. Affectionately known as the PED.

6. The Pali Text Society


The Society was founded in 1881 by T.W. Rhys Davids "to foster and promote the study of Pali texts ". It publishes Pali texts in roman characters, translations in English and ancillary works including dictionaries, concordance, books for students of Pali and a journal. As this List of Issues shows, most of the classical texts and commentaries have now been edited and many works translated into English. The Society aims to keep almost all its publications in print and to produce at least two new books and a volume of its Journal each year.

The Society is non-profit making and depends on the sale of its publications, on members' subscriptions and on the generosity of donors. Alongside its publishing activities, it provides Research Studentships for a number of people in a variety of countries who are working in the field of Pali studies. It also supports the Fragile Palm Leaves Project, which is involved in the conservation and identification of Southeast Asian manuscripts.

The Pali Text Society

73 Lime Walk
Oxford OX3 7AD
Tel: (01865) 742125
Fax: +44 1865 750 079
(mark: For Pali Text Society
Email: pts@palitext.demon.co.uk
Web site: http://www.palitext.demon.co.uk

About Pali Text Society Projects

The Paali Text Society wishes to put a list of current projects connected with Paali studies on its Web site. The purpose of this Web page is to enable scholars and other people interested in Paali to know what is being prepared. This should help avoid duplication in research. Areas of interest include editions of Paali texts, translations of Paali texts, and linguistic studies of Paali.

People are invited to send a short statement of their work to the Pali Text Society. They may indicate if they are interested in hearing from people working on similar projects (in which case an address should be included in the statement). Addresses will not be given out unless we are authorized to do so.

The following books are currently projects of the Pali Text Society:

1. Pa.thamasambodhi, edition of the Paali text prepared by Coedes

2. Mahaasuttas, the final volume is being prepared by Mr Peter Skilling.

3. Abhidhammatthavibhaavinii-.tiikaa, Dr Rupert Gethin is preparing.

4. Atthasaalinii, German translation by Ven. Nyanaponika. Sven Bretfeld is preparing the text for the printers.

5. Meditation book, Sarah Shaw is preparing a compilation of texts touching on meditation extracted from books published by the PTS.

6. Sa"ngiitiyava.msa, edition and translation by Dr Charles Hallisey.

7. Dr Y.-G. An: translation of the Suma"ngalavilaasinii commentary on the Mahaaparinibbaana Sutta.

8. Masahiro Kitsudo's Paali Printed Texts Printed in Sinhalese, Dr Oskar von Hinueber is handling the translation from Japanese of this.

9. Kaccaayana-vyaakara.na, Dr Ole Pind is working on an edition of the Paali text.

10. Ka"nkhaavitara.nii, Paali text and translation is being prepared by Dr William Pruitt and Mr K.R. Norman.

11. Kalyaa.nii inscription, the Paali text and translation to be prepared by Jason Carbine.

12. Itivuttaka Commentary translation (2 vols.) by Dr Peter Masefield.

13. Pi.takat Samuin: (a Burmese text on Paali texts, authors, and translators), Peter Nyunt is translating.

14. Diigha-nikaaya translation into French by Dr Mohan Wijayaratna.

15. Therii-Apadaana, edition and translation by Dr Sally Cutler.

16. The next index to be prepared in Japan will be of the Jaataka. After that will come the Visuddhimagga. The PTS hopes to prepare in conjunction with this a new edition for the PTS, using the PTS edition and the Warren edition.

17. Dr Justin McDaniel is translating the Lao and Northern Thai Manuscripts of the Kammavaca Nissaya, the Dhammapada Nissaya, as well as several other smaller nissayas from Laos and Northern Thailand.

18. The Pali-English Dictionary has been put on the Web as part of a program being run in Chicago by Dr James Nye.

The Fragile Palm Leaves Project

The teachings of the Buddha were first written down 2000 years ago. for centuries and across continents they were carefully transmitted, recorded on palm-leaf manuscripts, until they began to be printed in book form in the late 19th century. The ancient manuscripts are now under threat. Rapid modernization and the spread of consumerism have brought sweeping social changes. Manuscripts-along with other sacred objects- have become commodities, up for sale as "antiques". Sets are broken up; single leaves are framed for wall decoration. The rich literary heritage of Buddhism is endangered.

The Fragile Palm Leaves project seeks to rescue these ancient books from the market-place. The manuscripts are kept together as a single collection, to be catalogued and reproduced. The materials will then be made available internationally for research and publication.

Fragile Palm Leaves is a non-profit project based in Bangkok, Thailand. It operates under the auspices of the Pali Text Society (Oxford, U.K.), and has the support of leading international scholars and members of the Buddhist Sa.ngha.

Materials gathered so far include palm-leaf and paper manuscripts in Paali, Burmese, Shan, Tai Khun, Tai Lue, and other Southeast Asian languages. They include canonical texts, commentaries, local legends, and historical and medical texts. These manuscripts are a precious treasury for the study of the religious and literary heritage of the Buddhism of Southeast Asia and should be preserved for future generations.

The project:

   To collect endangered manuscripts

   To catalogue and replicate the manuscript collection

   To publish Paali texts that have not yet been published

   To translate Buddhist texts that have not yet been translated

   To study and describe the history of Buddhist literature of the region

Peter Skilling, Curator, is a Canadian scholar, resident in Thailand since 1971. He spent three years as a Buddhist monk, and at present is working on a three-volume comparative study of canonical texts in Tibetan, Sanskrit, and Pali.

7. A New Course in Reading Pali: Entering the Word of the Buddha
...by James W. Gair, W. S. Karunatillake


Book Description

This book is intended to serve as an introduction to the reading of Pali texts. For that purpose, it uses authentic readings especially compiled for the purpose drawn largely from Theravada canonical works, both prose and poetry. The readings are in Roman script, and carefully graded for difficulty, but they have also been selected so that each of them is a meaningful and complete reading in itself.


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