News at Tipitaka Network
Exploring the world of Pali
by Sugandha Pathak, DNA (India), Saturday, April 18, 2009
Mumbai, Maharashtra (India) A management student, 25-year-old Karuna Jagannath is now pursuing an M.A. in Pali and also has plans to do her M.Phil and Ph.d in this subject.
An LLM and LLB, 47-year-old Suresh Dayaram Maate spends a better part of his waking hours learning Pali and reading the tomes of literary works written in the language.
Jagannath and Maate are a growing tribe of keen enthusiasts learning and understanding the richness of the medieval world by mastering the Pali language.
Pali language which was called Magadhi centuries back was the language of the masses. Buddhist scriptures used to be written in Pali extensively. It was Buddha's language. However, while Hindi and Marathi are still prevalent, Pali lost its significance years back.
"Only four people in the entire city teach Pali language." states Yojana Bhagat, co-ordinator, Pali language department, Mumbai University. Bhagat, before becoming a full time Pali lecturer was an architect. It was while doing her PhD in Buddhist architecture that she got drawn towards this language.
"The Buddhist scriptures and teachings are all written in Pali language and instead of reading the translated version I wanted to read the original script," she adds. According to Bhagat, people who learn Vipassana, the meditation course, also express keenness to know more about it and hence learn Pali.
In fact, she is hopeful of the growing interest nowadays. She has students from the age group of 22 to 68 years and is noticing an increase with every passing year.
"I thought of learning and understanding the true essence of the Dhamma (Buddha's teachings) which is written in Pali. I asked a monk who told me to learn Pali to understand the finer nuances of this culture," says Jagannath.
For Maate, "There are around 1,000-1,200 Buddhist caves in and around Maharashtra. I wanted to know the history behind it. We get to know a lot about how the kingdom worked in India by reading the scriptures."
An arts (BA) graduate, Vinod Bhele, 36, professor, Siddharth College was involved with an organisation which taught meditation and Buddhist literature. Even as a student, he was interested in Buddhism and its language which later became his profession. "A word, then a language and from there a culture. It's not only about learning a language which is not practised widely in India, it's about learning its culture and through it our own. India is the birth land of Buddhism after all."
"Learning Pali helped me in Vipassana as I could understand the chants and absorb them quickly," feels Jagannath. She felt that a complete understanding of the Vipassana helped her change, citing an example of her anger which she was able to channelise in a positive way. "It's only when I slowly went deep into his teachings that I realised that in translated versions not everything is written and we tend to miss the simple but important lines."
Buddhism is 2,500-years-old but in the 12-13th century Buddhism was lost from India and so were its scriptures.
What attracted Vinod Saojiaarya, 32, a paediatrician to this language was the curiosity to know why and how Buddhism vanished from the country of its birth. And learning Pali was just another step to understand it more deeply. His wife is an ardent Vipassana follower as is his father-in-law who teaches Vipassana. He feels that ideas like aatma, parmatma, moksha, nirvana seemed faulty to him in someway. "I was keen to learn the middle path taught by Buddha," says Saojiaarya.
With more and more people getting attracted to the language of Buddha and that too without much publicity, Pali just goes on to reiterate the age old adage 'old is gold,' and quite literally.
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