About the Book:
Pali, in addition to its importance as a Middle Indic language, is the classical language of Theravada Buddhist texts and it is thus the Buddhist canonical language of such Theravada countries as Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Burma. As a gateway to that important body of textual material it is of special importance to the student or scholar of Buddhism as well as being of great interest from the literary-cultural as well as the linguistic and historical points of view.
The 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 in 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 Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta. A cumulative glossary and index to the grammar is also provided.
The text has been used successfully in its preliminary form at several universities, but it may also be used for self-study.
About the Author:
JAMES W. GAIR is professor of Linguistics and South Asian Languages at Cornell University. W.S. KARUNATILLAKE is Professor of Linguistics at Kelaniya University, Sri Lanka. This Pali text is product of a long collaborative association during which they have also produced other works, primarily on the languages of Sri Lanka.
This book had its beginnings in a set of graded readings and grammatical
notes that the authors began to assemble and discuss a number of years ago,
when we found that there was a lack of introductory material for Pali that
emphasized reading and a direct approach to texts that could be read by beginning
students and at the same time conveyed some of the fundamental Buddhist ideas
and concepts that were embodied in the Pali tradition. Professor Karunatillake
played the primary role in the original selection, which thus had a Sri Lankan
Buddhist perspective. At the same time, we believed that a text of this nature
should be graded in terms of grammar and as far as possible, vocabulary, since
we were aiming at a beginning student, and did not want to presume any prior
knowledge, as of Sanskrit. Thus we resolved throughout to treat Pali as a language
in its own right. In short, we attempted to apply the same approach that we and
others had used in texts for modem spoken and written languages. Along the
way to the present work, there were numerous replacements, additions, and re-
orderings, along with many valuable and pleasant hours of analysis and discussion
of both grammar and content. These lessons have also been used in successive
forms in our Pali classes, and the progress and the reactions of the students have
been encouraging indeed. We hope that the original perspective and intent has
Too many colleagues and students have contributed comments and
encouragement for us to name them, but we would particularly like to single out
a few. Successive generations of students have pointed out misprints and missing
items, along with unclarities or difficulties that they encountered. In particular,
Kim Atkins not only fulfilled those functions, but typed a great deal of the text in
an earlier form. Richard Carlson and Tamara Hudec were particularly active in the
editing function as they learned. Ratna Wijetunga and L. Sumangala contributed
suggestions, and colleagues and friends, such as John Ross Carter, Charles
Hallisey, and John Paolillo encouraged us to bring this material to final form.
Charles Hallisey also made a special contribution, by using this text in his classes
at Harvard and making numerous suggestions that have found their way into this
version. We also thank Professor Lakshmi Narayan Tiwari for his valuable
suggestions, and Mr N.P. Jain of Motilal Banarsidass for his help in bringing this
work to publication at last.
We will be happy for comments and suggestions, and hope that others will
find these materials useful as we have. If it offers, even in a small way, entry for
more students, whether in formal classes or not. into the language and thought of
Pali Buddhist texts, we will feel more than amply rewarded for what efforts we
have put into the task.
WHAT IS IN THIS INTRODUCTION: This introduction 'is in four parts: The
first describes the principles on which this text is organized, and suggests how it is
intended to be most efficiently used. Students, especially those proceeding on
their own outside of a regular class, are thus strongly urged to read that section
before beginning their study. The second part deals with the alphabet and
alphabetical order, with some information on the pronunciation (phonological
system)system of Pali. Interested students may investigate the latter, but all should
at least become acquainted with the order of the alphabet in order to use the
glossaries in this text. The third part gives some general background to Pali
language and literature, particularly those works on which we have drawn for
our readings. Lastly, there is a brief list of basic sources that the student might
find useful in studying Pali, and continuing past this text.
Cumulative glossaries, and indices of grammatical forms and topics will be
found at the end of the volume.
The readings and grammatical notes included in this text are intended to
serve as a primer to introduce Students to the reading of authentic Buddhist texts
in Pali (sometimes written as Pali and in English usage commonly written simply as
Pali). The emphasis throughout is thus on acquiring the ability to read, and the
texts have all been selected and ordered with that goal in mind. At the same time,
however, we have operated under the principle that such reading should not be a
mere exercise, but should have significant and interesting content. We have thus
made every attempt to make every reading, even if a selection from a larger text,
self-contained and meaningful and in some sense complete in content. We have
also assumed no knowledge of Sanskrit or any other Indo-Aryan language, but
have approached Pali as a language in its own right. We have also assumed a
wide range of learners, ranging from the interested student of Buddhism who may
be approaching the texts on his/her own, through college freshmen and graduate
students. In the classes in which the successive versions of this text have been
used, we have found that it can indeed be used successively by such a range of
learners. We have thus attempted throughout to make the grammatical
explanations as clear and non-technical as possible, though obviously a student
with some general grammatical knowledge, and especially one who has had
exposure to some other language 'with case and verb agreement may find them,
and probably the readings, easier at first.
For this book to be used effectively, however, the following points about
its organization and the selection of texts should be kept in mind.
I. Each lesson has three parts: (I) a set of basic readings and an
accompanying glossary, (2) grammatical notes on the forms in the lesson, and (3)
a set of further readings with its own glossary. The further readings introduce no
new grammatical points, but reinforce those already presented. Thus the student
should work out the basic readings carefully, consulting the vocabulary and the
grammar. After that he or she will have the equipment to read the further
readings for necessary practice and reinforcement, usually needing only to consult
the glossary for them.
2. The readings have been carefully graded, particularly for grammatical
features, and the vocabulary is cumulative. Thus they should be used in the
order given. Sometimes, particularly in the earlier lessons, it was impossible to
avoid including some forms that we introduce later, given our principle of using
only authentic texts. At the same time, we did not want to overload the earlier
lessons, when everything is new, with most of the grammar. Thus when a form
that is described in a later lesson occurs in an earlier one, we have simply glossed
the earlier occurrence as a unit, without an explanation, saving that for later.
3. The student will note that many of the readings, particularly in earlier
lessons, contain passages that are repeated with only a few changes in vocabulary
in each repetition. This was in fact one element in their selection. With such
readings, once the student has worked out the first part, the rest can be read by
looking up only a restricted number of new items. Thus reading them need not be
simply laborious exercises in decoding and looking up words, but they may be
read as text, with minimal lookup. At the same time, grammatical and rhetorical
patterns will be reinforced, and will be more easily dealt with when encountered
later. Thus these repetitions should not be skipped. On the contrary, they can be
enjoyable in that they allow the student to approach the text for content, and
what is more, they do represent one rhetorical device commonly found in Palli
We may now mention one or two things that we have not taken as goals
for this text.
This book' is intended as an introduction to reading Pali, not as an
independent scholarly contribution to the linguistic or literary study of the
language. Thus our grammar sections are intended as aids to the learner, and we
have not attempted to cover in them all of the variants that one might encounter
in reading further in texts. However, the student should, after completing the
readings here, and acquainting himself or herself with the basic vocabulary and
grammatical patterns, have sufficient background to make use of other reference
sources, such as those listed at the end of this introduction, to deal with the new
forms met with in future reading.
Similarly, a word needs to be said concerning our treatment of vocabulary.
One cannot read Pali Buddhist texts without encountering a number of technical
terms, such as dhamma, khanda, kamma etc.etc. which have not only
specialized, but manifold meanings within Buddhist thought. These have served as
the basis for extensive commentary, elucidation and disputation within both the
Pali and the western scholarly traditions, and many of them have been the subject
of more than one book-length treatment. While we are fully aware of the
importance of such work, and the indispensability of a dear understanding of such
terms if one is to attain a really adequate understanding of the texts, we have not
attempted to make any original contributions in that direction. Thus we have
glossed forms in relation to their senses in specific texts in which they appear
here. The student with an interest in the range of meanings of such terms, and
their precise technical sense, is encouraged to consult the many scholarly sources
on Buddhist concepts and philosophy. Nevertheless, the meanings of these
technical terms are best learned when encountered in a range of actual contexts,
and it is our hope that the readings here will enable the student to make a start
toward that end.
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