Showing posts with label Gandhari. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gandhari. Show all posts

27 August 2010

A Pāli Pun


In the Aggañña Sutta (DN 27.22) we find some interesting material on the Buddhist attitude to class prejudice. [1] We need to be clear that this not an objective historical record; it is a document which is meant to convince us of a particular view, or perhaps persuade against one. However, the fact that the Pāli texts recall the kinds of insults that Brahmins aimed at Buddhists suggests that there is some veracity in the texts, since they would probably not make up insults for themselves, nor preserve them. Some Brahmins saw the samaṇa as having taken on the status of śudra - the lowest of the four classes, though not the lowest level of Indian society, since one could be outcast. Note that 'Brahmin' is an Anglicisation of the Sanskrit brāhmaṇa usually adopted to avoid confusion with the texts of the same name. Here a former Brahmin called Vāseṭṭha who has converted to Buddhism recounts the kinds of insults he receives from Brahmins:

brāhmaṇova seṭṭho vaṇṇo, hīno añño vaṇṇo. Brāhmaṇova sukko vaṇṇo, kaṇho añño vaṇṇo. Brāhmaṇāva sujjhanti, no abrāhmaṇā. Brāhmaṇāva brahmuno puttā orasā mukhato jātā brahmajā brahmanimmitā brahmadāyādā. Te tumhe seṭṭhaṃ vaṇṇaṃ hitvā hīnamattha vaṇṇaṃ ajjhupagatā, yadidaṃ muṇḍake samaṇake ibbhe kaṇhe bandhupādāpacce.

Brahmins are the best class, the other class is defective (hīna). Brahmins are the pure [white] class, the other is impure [black]. Brahmins are the offspring of Brahmā's mouth, born from Brahmā, created by Brahmā, the kin of Brahmā. Having deserted the best class you have accepted the class that fails to measure up, with these baldy, petit-ascetic, menials, blacks, offspring of Brahmā’s feet! [DN 27.3, D iii.81]
Note the use of hīna in this context to describe the śudra class, and then hīnamattha which I've rendered 'fails to measure up' and does literally mean 'lacking a full measure'. The word for both 'pure' and 'white' is sukka; while the word for 'impure' and 'black' is kaṇha. The insults muṇḍaka 'bald' and samaṇaka 'ascetic' are in a diminutive form that is hard to capture in English - elsewhere they have been rendered "shaveling little ascetics". The last three terms (which can also be read as "menial, black offspring...") are often used of śudras. Indeed, the reference to "Brahmā's feet" is an allusion to Ṛgveda 10.90 The Puruṣa Sūkta. [2] However, I think the idea would have been a cliché (or, indeed, an insult) by the Buddha's day, so it doesn't necessarily suggest familiarity with the Ṛgveda, itself. These are insults that only a Brahmin could use. In looking for contemporary parallels I suggest that the language of white racist abuse is on a par with the passage above. However, projecting contemporary attitudes and understandings backward onto the texts is an uncertain enterprise, at best.

The Buddhist response in the Aggañña Sutta is a lengthy satire on Brahmanical cosmogony and views on the origins of the four classes that employs a series of puns. The funniest one is at DN 27.22 where the Buddha remarks that: ‘They don’t meditate’ (ajhāyaka) is the meaning of ‘brahmin student’ (ajjhāyaka).

However, I want now to focus on the first of the puns in this section. It is less obvious, less amusing, but offers some interesting reflections on the history of Budddhism.
Pāpake akusale dhamme bāhentīti kho, vāseṭṭha, ‘brāhmaṇā, brāhmaṇā’ tveva paṭhamaṃ akkharaṃ upanibbattaṃ. [D iii.93-4]
They ward off evil unwholesome things, Vāseṭṭha, [hence] they are ‘Brahmins’. This is the first pun produced.
The word akkharaṃ literally means 'constant', but also 'letter, sound'. Hence, it is used as the name of the Vedic science of phonology - the sounds of the letters being the constants of language and having a greater significance, even at an early date, than we assign to our letters. It is only a guess, but I think that it suggests 'pun' here - a play on words based on similar sounds. This makes more sense in view of the following discussion.

At first glance there is no pun in the passage quoted. However, brāhmaṇa is a Sanskrit form. In Pāli, consonant clusters like 'br' get resolved in various ways; e.g., the Sanskrit term śramaṇa becomes samaṇa in Pāli. This suggests that the form of our word should be bāhmaṇa and, indeed, Richard Gombrich notes that this form is found in some of Asoka's edicts. [3]

In his work An Outline of Meters in the Pāḷi Canon Ānandajoti notes that the conjunct br in brāhmaṇa regularly fails to “make position”; i.e., it fails to cause the preceding syllable to be metrically heavy. However, it does regularly make position medially. This suggests that brā was frequently treated as , at least for the purposes of meter.

If bāhmaṇa (possibly bāhmana) was the form, then we do have a pun with bāhenti, 'they ward off'. [4] This kind of sound alike etymology is called nirutti (S. nirukti) and relies on verbal roots having phonetic similarity. [6] The verb bāheti is said by PED to be a causative from bahati or a denominative perhaps related to Sanskrit bahis 'outward', which is also the opinion of Edgerton in BHSD. The root of which is obscure. Though John Brough thinks it unlikely [5], the root may be √vah 'carry' - there is a regular confusion of 'b' and 'v' in Indic languages [see note 4]. This idea that Brahmins have avoided or warded off evil is consistent with Brahmins claiming to be sukka - pure/white - but it also reflects the Buddhist notion that a Brahmin is a Brahmin because of their conduct, not because of their birth.

There are a number of texts in Pāli, Sanskrit and Gāndhārī which make use of this same pun - I'll highlight the key terms in italics, and add hyphens to compounds to help clarify the connection. At MN 39.24 (M i.280) we find:
Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu brāhmaṇo hoti? Bāhitāssa honti pāpakā akusalā dhammā...
And how is a bhikkhu a brāhmaṇa? They have warded off evil unskilful mental states…
Again, in the Dhammapada, verse 388:
bāhita-pāpo’ti brāhmaṇo, samacariyā samaṇo’ti vuccati
pabbājaya attano malaṃ, tasmā pabbajito’ti vuccati.

Brahmin means ‘evil put aside’, we call the calmly living ‘samaṇa’.
Putting aside his own impurity, he is called ‘gone forth’.
We have several versions of the Dhammapada. In the Gāndhārī language version of the Dharmapada [7] the parallel verse (DhpG 1.16) runs:

brahetva pavaṇi brammaṇo
samaïrya śramaṇo di vucadi
I refrain from attempting to translate, but these words are not so different from the Pāli (pavaṇi = pāpa). The 'r' in brahetva is probably an anomaly, since it is not found in either the Pāli or Sanskrit versions. John Brough (who edited the GDhp) notes that it may have been "artificially introduced to buttress the pseudo-etymology of brāhmaṇa, if this arose originally in a dialect which assimilated br- of the latter word"; but, overall, he is doubtful about deriving P. bāheti from √bah or √vah and links it to √brah or √barh. [8] However, if we derive the verb from the same root as brahmaṇa (actually √bṛh) then the verb means 'to strengthen' and the sentence means the opposite of the parallels - i.e., that the Brahmin is one who strengthens evil. So we can probably conclude that the Gandhāran composer understood that this was a pun, and because in their dialect brāhmaṇa is spelt brammaṃa, introduced an 'r' into the verb to preserve the pun. Though it is strange that they should do this and obscure the meaning. Gāndhārī baheti is also listed as equal to P. bāhetvā in Stefan Baums and Andrew Glass (preliminary) Gāndhārī Dictionary, so we know that the 'r' is not required in that dialect.

Another version of the Dhammapada survives in a Sanskrit text which is called Udānavarga (UV 11.15)
brāhmaṇo vāhitaiḥ pāpaiḥ
śramaṇaḥ śamitāśubhaḥ
Note that UV has vāhita like the variant Pāli, and consistent with Sanskrit usage of the verb. In turn, this leads us to two parallels from the Pāli Udāna:
Yo brāhmaṇo bāhita pāpadhammo (Ud 1.5)

He is a Brahmin who avoids evil states


Bāhitvā pāpake dhamme, ye caranti sadā satā;
Khīṇasaṃyojanā buddhā, te ve lokasmi brāhmaṇā 'ti (Ud 1.6)

Having avoided evil states, they always behave mindfully;
With fetters destroyed and awake, they are called brahmins in the world.
Max Müller (in his Dhp translation) notes another occurrence of our phrase in the (Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit) Lalitavistara:
…trailokya-brāhmaṇaṃ bāhita-pāpakarmāṇaṃ bhikṣuṃ

...the three-worlds' Brahmin with evil deeds cast aside is a bhikṣu [LV 22.5]
Note that LV follows the Pāli in using bāhita. I've made no attempt at an exhaustive search; these are just the examples that come easily to hand. But still we have a number of passages which work together to show that at some point this pun on bāhenti/bāhmana must have been reasonably common, and have made sense - i.e., that the two words bāhetva/bāhita and bāhmaṇa shared the syllable bāh. We would have expected Pāli to preserve the pun, since bāhmana is the natural form of that word in Pāli. Since it did not, we have something of a mystery.

One possible conclusion is that the spelling was deliberately changed - and that this change affected not only the Pāli, but also the Buddhist Sanskrit usage. In turn, this suggests that LV emerged in a milieu that spoke a dialect closely allied to Pāli, though UV did not, since it uses the form vāhita. The change from bā > brā involves a Sanskritisation which suggests a Brahmin influence, since at the time Sanskrit was the sole preserve of the Brahmins, and yet it occurs precisely in the context of satires on Brahmanical beliefs. Madhav Deshpande has pointed to passages in the Lalitavistara Sūtra that indicate the "increasing prominence of Brahmanical elements within Buddhist traditions". [9] Perhaps Brahmin converts were able to live with the canonical criticisms of their former faith/culture and. in any case. could not erase them because it would be noticed; but they retained enough pride in their heritage to correct the spelling of their former social class across the whole canon?

Another possibility is that though the original dialect used bāhmaṇa, Pāli had brahmaṇa as a loan word directly from Sanskrit by the time the texts were translated into Pāli. The Gandhāran translator must have had (or heard) a text in the original dialect to see the pun, and make the unusual change they did. There is some linguistic evidence to suggest more than one wave of Indo-European speaking people moving into India, and that those who wrote the Vedas and built the Brahmanical culture may not have been directly connected to the earlier (or perhaps later) wave that moved much further east more quickly. This might allow for brāhmaṇa to be a new word to those in the East. But that is a complex argument, and this is now a long post. However, one important point to follow up would be to locate the Asoka use of bāhmaṇa geographically, and compare this to the most recent deliberations on the comparison of Pāli and the Asokan dialects.


~~| This is Rave no. 200 |~~

Notes
  1. There are some structural features which suggest that the text is not in its original form, especially the sudden transition between verse 9 and v.10. My guess is that a verse has which should introduce this part of the text has been lost. However, some have seen it as two separate texts. It is true that the narrative that stops at v.8 (v.9 is standalone and may not have originally been in this position) and is resumed at v.27. However, v.23 references v.4 linking the two. A verse which introduced the cosmogonic story would have been expected (cf other similar texts such as D.3, D.26 where the change is signalled). It is not hard to skip a verse when copying a text. This sort of thing is impossible to prove, however.
  2. The Puruṣa Sūkta mentions the Sāmaveda and Yajurveda written 500-600 years after the probable date of the Ṛgveda ca 1500-1200 BCE, so it must have been added to the Ṛgveda after this time. This is still well before the Buddha's days. For a discussion on sūkta/sūtra/sutta see: Philological Odds & Ends I.
  3. What the Buddha Thought, p.224, n.8. The earliest reference I have found to this theory is Müller, F. Max. The Dhammapada : A collection of verses being one of the canonical books of the Buddhists. Translated from pāli By F. Max müller . Oxford, the Clarendon Press [1881], p.liv (online text). However, Müller himself cites a German ethnographical study published in several volumes from 1866-68 so it may go back a few more years. (Note the Pali Text Society was founded in 1881.)
  4. In the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana edition of the canon the verb is spelt vāhenti rather than bāhenti. This confusion between ba and va is widespread and partly due to phonetics, and partly because the characters have always been similar in Indic writing: cf Devanāgarī: ब व. The two verbs unusually have slightly different senses in Pāli, and the va spelling further obscures the pun.
  5. Brough, J. The Gāndhārī Dharmapada. P. 178, n. 1.
  6. For which see my Yāska and his Nirukta, and Yāska, Plato and Sound Symbolism. For sound symbolism generally see Magnus, Margaret: What's in a Word? Studies in Phonosemantics. Unpublished PhD Dissertation; and her popular website Magical Letter Page. Magnus has shown that words which share an initial phoneme are indeed more likely to have overlapping semantic fields than words which do not. A growing body of evidence is challenging the Saussurian dictum that the "sign is arbitrary" which is the paradigm from which mainstream linguists see Yāska, and dismiss the value of nirukti etymologies as "fanciful".
  7. Gandhāra was in the Northwest of India - what is now the Taliban stronghold in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Several caches of texts from that region date from the first couple of centuries common era in a language which has been called by modern scholars after the region. This and the next passage are from: Ānandajoti Bhikkhu . A Comparative Edition of the Dhammapada with parallels from Sanskritised Prakrit edited together with A Study of the Dhammapada Collection. (2nd revised edition July, 2007 - 2551). Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  8. Brough, as for note 5.
  9. Deshpande, Madhav. Sanskrit & Prakrit, sociolinguistic issues. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1993, p.9.
  10. See, for instance, Deshpande, Madhav. 'Genesis of Ṛgvedic Retroflexion: a Historical and Sociolinguistic Investigation.' in Deshpande, Madhav M and Hook, Peter Edwin (ed.s) Aryan and Non-aryan in India. The University of Michigan, 1979. esp p.261ff.
image: Brahmin from www.kamat.com

16 April 2010

The Rhinoceros Sutta in Three Parallel Versions

rhinoceros
My friend Dharmacārin Dhīvan (aka Dr Thomas Jones) was recently invited to give a series of lectures at Cambridge University and he told me that he included three parallel versions of the Rhinoceros Sutta partly to demonstrate the relationship of the canonical languages, but mostly to give a feel for the early (i.e. pre-sectarian) Buddhist world. I was taken by the idea of presenting three versions of the same text and so I asked for a copy of his handout and have used it to create this blog post. These three versions of the text can be found together in Richard Salomon's book A Gāndhārī Version of the Rhinoceros Sūtra.








Pāli
(Sn v. 36, 53, 73)

nāgo va yūthāni vivajjayitvā

sañjātakhandho padumī uḷāro, 

yathābhirantaṃ vihare araññe

eko care khaggavisāṇakappo.

saṃsaggajātassa bhavati sneho
snehanvayaṃ dukkham idam pahoti
ādīnavaṃ snehajaṃ pekkhamāno
eko care khaggavisāṇakappo

mettaṃ upekhaṃ karuṇaṃ vimuttiṃ
āsevamāno muditañ ca kāle
sabbena lokena avirujjhamāno
eko care khaggavisāṇakappo
Gāndhārī:
Kharoṣṭi mss

ṇāgo vi yusaṇi vivajaita
saṃjadakaṃdho patumaṃ uraḍo
+++++vi+[ṛ]+++
+++++++++++

sa(*ṃ)s(*evamaṇasa siyati sneho)
s̄eha(*ṃ)vayaṃ dukha(*ṃ=idaṃ prabhoti)
+++++++++++
(*eko care khargaviṣaṇagapo)

metra uvekha karuṇa ya bhavae
asevamaṇa mutita e kalo
(*sarveṇa loge)ṇa a(*virujama)ṇa
eko care khargavi(*ṣaṇagapo)

Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit:
Mahāvastu

[no equivalent for this verse]




saṃsevamānasya siyātisneho
snehānvayaṃ dukham idaṃ prabhoti
saṃsevamānaṃ tu jugupsamāno
eko care khaḍgaviṣāṇakalpo

…upekṣāṃ karuṇāṃ ca bhāvya
āsevamāno muditāṃ ca kāle
maitreṇa cittena hitānukaṃpī
eko care khaḍgaviṣāṇakalpo


(+ indicates an unreadable character on the manuscript; * is a conjectured reading;)

Dhīvan also provided his students with an English translation of the Pāli (based on K.R. Norman's):
As an elephant with massive shoulder, spotted, noble, leaving the herds might live as it pleases in the forest, one should wander alone like a rhinoceros (horn).

Affection comes into being from keeping company; following on affection, this suffering arises. Seeing the danger that comes from affection, one should wander alone like a rhinoceros (horn).

Cultivating at the right time love, equanimity, compassion, liberation and gladness, unimpeded by the whole world, one should wander alone like a rhinoceros (horn).
The three versions of this text are in three important languages for the transmission of Early Buddhist texts. It is interesting to see these languages side by side. It's doubtful to me whether they would have been mutually intelligible. Unlike the Vedas which were rigidly transmitted in a single language that gradually became unintelligible too many of those involved in the transmission, the Buddha encouraged his followers to pass on the Dharma each in their own language.

We know that even among speakers of languages descended from Vedic that there must have been considerable linguistic variation. Compare the situation in Europe where we have languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Romanian all descended from vernacular Latin. It was some time before Sanskrit was a adopted as a lingua franca, not for many centuries. Some scholars think that Pali might have been an attempt at a lingua franca.

As well is the evidence of texts in several Indian languages, there are two stories in the Pali Canon which tell us that this was more than just a drifting apart. One of these, Vin ii.139, is now somewhat infamous because of the competing interpretations of it. In this story to Brahmins attempt to persuade the Buddha to allow them to translate the Buddha's teaching into 'chandaso' The competition arises because scholars have attempted to use this passage to show what language the Buddha might have spoken, by interpreting the word chandaso in at least three different ways. My understanding is that all we can draw from this passage is the notion that the Buddha did not want everything standardised linguistically.

The other story is found in the Araṇavibhanga Sutta (MN 139). Here the Buddha explicitly says that one should not insist on using the local dialect, nor override local usage. he points out that the same vessel is called different things in different places: pāti, patta, vittha, serāva, dhāropa, poṇa, pisīla (ie the Buddha in this text possibly knows of at least seven distinct dialects). The text is an instruction on how to avoid conflict, and in this case it doesn't really matter what we call the thing we are eating from as long as it does the job it's designed for.

So although we preserve scriptures in a relatively small number of languages, as English-speaking Buddhists what we strive for is to convey the Buddha's insight, and our own to the extent that we have it, in the language of the people we are speaking to. Clearly I believe that having reference to the traditional canons is helpful. I have certainly found that learning Pāli, even to the limited extent to which I have, has enriched my practice.

One of the consequences of this translation process is that not only is the language translated, by which I mean the words; but the cultural references also change. So the Buddhism of any given culture gradually becomes distinctive as it orientates itself to that culture. This gives rise to differences that aren't necessarily easy to understand and doctrinally terms. If we only use doctrine as a frame of reference for understanding Buddhism then we may fail to understand the way that some Buddhists practice. This opens up the wider question which I hope to address in the future essay: who is a Buddhist? What is Buddhism? Specifically is Buddhism not simply what Buddhists say and do; or is Buddhism only what it says ancient texts?

~~oOo~~

Salomon, Richard with Glass, Andrew. A Gandhari Version of the Rhinoceros Sutra: British Library Kharosthi Fragment 5B. University of Washington Press, 2001.

Addition 20 May 2010. If you are interested in parallel versions of texts then there is a Comparative version of the Dhammapada compiled by Bhikkhu Anandajyoti. He compares four main texts: the Pāli Dhammapada, the Gāndārī Dhammapada, the Patna Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dharmapada, and a Sanskrit text Dhammapada style text called Udanavarga. In addition he includes parallel verses from other texts where they are known about.

7 March 2015. Dhivan has subsequently published an article on the difficult term khaggavisāṇa: 'Like the Rhinoceros, or Like Its Horn? The Problem of Khaggavisāṇa Revisited.' Buddhist Studies Review. Vol 31, No 2 (2014).