Best Places to Study Pali in Southeast Asia?

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Best Places to Study Pali in Southeast Asia?

Postby sherabzangpo » Mon Jul 22, 2013 7:53 pm

I'm interested in studying Pali in Southeast Asia.
I am guessing that Sri Lanka may be the best for Pali, since:

1) They are famous for being the best at Pali,
2) They speak an Indian language (Sinhali) which is more similar to Pali,
3) They also seem to have the best Sanskrit among Southeast Asians (probably due to their cultural connection with India), which I am also interested in studying.

However I'm also open to going elsewhere.

Does anyone know what would be the best places to study Pali in Southeast Asia for a 1-3 month period? Most likely private lessons, ideally 2-4 hours a day. Any recommendations would be helpful.

E
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Re: Best Places to Study Pali in Southeast Asia?

Postby Kare » Tue Jul 23, 2013 3:30 pm

There is a place called Sri Lanka Buddhist & Pali University: http://www.bpu.ac.lk/

I don't know anything about them except for what you can read on their website. But maybe they can give you some good advice, if you get in touch with them.
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Re: Best Places to Study Pali in Southeast Asia?

Postby Aemilius » Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:39 am

This is a Mahayana forum, why don't You take up, for example, mongolian?
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Re: Best Places to Study Pali in Southeast Asia?

Postby Thrasymachus » Wed Jul 24, 2013 11:52 am

According to Eisel Mazard, there is no good place to study Pali in Southeast Asia, because there is no interest. But of the bad options, Sri Lanka is the least worst, because they at least they admit they have a problem, unlike other Theravada countries, in that they don't know the source material of the religion they pretend to practice and worship:
Eisel Mazard quoting a Sri Lankan Conference wrote:à bas le ciel: Sri Lanka is Different, Sri Lanka is the Same

"The Conference being an occasion organized by the State of Sri Lanka […] it was felt that preservation, study and propagation of the Pali Canon is one of the most important tasks before the Theravada Buddhist world in particular. ...
...
One is that the study of Pali language is gradually given less and less emphasis owing, mainly, to the overemphasis on job-oriented mode of education. It was noted that in many Buddhist countries, Pali was taught as a subject in normal school curriculum some time ago but it is no longer the case. More than a problem of resources such as teachers and textbooks this is a problem of attitudes. The conference recommends that Pali be a subject in the school curriculum, under the study of Buddhism.
Pali has been an essential aspect in the monastic education. The traditional education of Pali has been such that it was internationally spoken and also used as the medium of instruction and communication. The ideal situation should be to reach this level. In some Buddhist countries, however, it is getting less and less attention as a result of Buddhist monks opting to study secular subjects. This has to be addressed by changing the fundamental characteristics of the monastic education. There must be ways and means for those who wish to do higher studies in Pali to have that education wherever the resources are available. The scholars in the Theravada countries, in particular, should be able to share their resources in this field in this connection some places should be reserved for Buddhist monks with necessary prerequisites to study Pali and Buddhist studies without payment of fees.
The study of the Pali language has as its aim the study of the Pali Canon and the associated literature. The most fundamental step in the practice and the preservation of the Dhamma is to understand the Canon accurately. A pressing issue resulting from the unsatisfactory state of the Pali knowledge is that the Dhamma is not properly understood and hence, misinterpreted and distorted, knowingly or otherwise. The Conference notes that, as a result, not only the Dhamma itself is misunderstood but also the Buddhist point of view on issues of importance is not properly presented or wrongly presented, thereby doing tremendous harm to the Buddhasasana. In order to remedy this situation it is necessary that studies in Pali and the Canon should be developed both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Lack of accurate texts and translations is another issue needing to be addressed urgently. Most of the existing texts and translations have been done a long time ago, more than hundred years ago, in some cases. This is a need to be addressed both nationally and internationally. Misinterpretations and distortions within the Theravada tradition arise due to this.
In an age when not the traditional Buddhist scholars alone are engaged in research in Buddhism it is of vital importance that editions and translations of texts in international languages are reliably done." [End of quotation.]


Now as to the Sinhalese to Pali being similar, that may not be necessarily true. You know English, but can you read and actually the understand the Old English of the epic poem Beowulf:
http://www8.georgetown.edu/departments/ ... /a4.1.html
Knowing modern English doesn't help at all. I am not saying it is the same with modern Sinhalese and dead, ancient Pali, but what matters is how the languages drifted over time.

@Aemilius:
What you are saying it is not only rude, it is ignorant. One of things Mazard points out in his writings, is that generally unlike Christians, Buddhists generally don't want to get at the source texts of their religion in the source language:
Eisel Mazard wrote:à bas le ciel: Peer-Review Works (or Doesn't) Both Ways
...

From direct experience, I can report that some some reviewers (in Buddhist Studies) think that their role is to prevent anything offensive to Buddhism being published (which is a fairly fundamental conflict of interest), and some think that their role is to prevent anything being said to diminish the memory of deceased European scholars (again, a conflict of interest, and an obstruction to ever admitting or addressing the errors of past scholarship… one of the favorite subjects of Francis Bacon, it so happens). I've now received more than one peer-review stating that I should not be allowed to point out errors in a 100 year old Pali-English dictionary; ask yourself if a scholar of Ancient Greek would receive a similar criticism, for reporting an error in a 100 year old dictionary for translating Greek to English, or if a scholar of Christianity would be discouraged from discussing a similar problem of the definition of terms in Aramaic, Hebrew and so on. "Buddhist Studies" exists at a very problematic intersection of religious attitudes, and may be especially ill-suited to the process of peer-review.

...


Now as to what you said, what does Mongolian have to do with the original languages the Buddhist canon was preserved in Sanskrit and Pali? From what I know Buddhist texts were translated from third languages into Mongolian. So if you learn Mongolian to learn Buddhism you are just picking up LOTS of translation errors, local fables and culture passed of as Buddhist.

What are you saying is actually worse than telling an interested Christian to study the language of Poland, because it a Catholic country, and you prefer Catholicism, instead of Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament. At least the Polish language New Testament is translated by people with more competency in Koine, than the translators of Buddhist source texts.
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Re: Best Places to Study Pali in Southeast Asia?

Postby sherabzangpo » Wed Jul 24, 2013 11:44 pm

Wow, thanks for the interesting discussion. I appreciate it.

About me: I'm a Tibetan-English translator and am fluent and literate in Tibetan. So it's not like I am new to Buddhist/Asian languages. I just want to expand. I actually didn't realize that this was a Mahayana forum, but I don't think that a discussion of studying Pali should be excluded.

About my study goals: I am interested in studying Sanskrit more than Pali, since it's more related to my main field (Tibetan). However I'm interested in both.

About what I'm doing now with all this: I'm currently studying Pali and Sanskrit at a Buddhist university in Thailand through which I'm doing an online Master's program (the International Buddhist College). I'm only here for a month now, and am doing an introduction to both languages in private classes right now. I usually live in Dharamsala, India, but I think it's likely that I'll be coming here to Thailand for 3-4 months a year to do private classes on Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, and sit it on the (residential) university classes (although I need to see how it goes). It's also a good excuse to get out of India sometimes.

My point in asking: I'm just curious what the best places to study Pali are. My teacher here at IBC is also a Sri Lankan monk and seems quite learned in Pali. Judging from what I have seen, the Sri Lankans seems to be pretty good at Pali, so I don't think it's a big issue at least in that country (although I would not be surprised if it's a problem in some places). I am just wondering if it might be valuable to go elsewhere (aside from here at this school in Thailand) in case I want to do deeper into Pali studies.

As for Mongolian, it's an interest also but as someone pointed out, it's generally less important than knowing Sanskrit or Pali (in my opinion).

In my view, generally for a Tibetan translator, the order of importance for other languages would be 1) Sanskrit 2) Chinese 3) Pali 4) Mongolian 5) Korean/Japanese etc., for (I think) fairly obvious reasons.

Again, places where I could also learn Sanskrit would be the best.

Any suggestions are welcome. It's not really a big deal since I have the option here in Thailand, but just wondering what's out there. I should ask my teacher.
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Re: Best Places to Study Pali in Southeast Asia?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:39 am

Thrasymachus wrote:

@Aemilius:
What you are saying it is not only rude, it is ignorant. One of things Mazard points out in his writings, is that generally unlike Christians, Buddhists generally don't want to get at the source texts of their religion in the source language:



Now as to what you said, what does Mongolian have to do with the original languages the Buddhist canon was preserved in Sanskrit and Pali? From what I know Buddhist texts were translated from third languages into Mongolian. So if you learn Mongolian to learn Buddhism you are just picking up LOTS of translation errors, local fables and culture passed of as Buddhist.


Thanks!
There are several reasons for what I said:
1. Buddhism is a method, a method for reaching the goal of enlightenment. Buddhism is renewed every time when a person attains this goal. This is how it stays alive. Errors are corrected by the enlightenment itself.
From the little I know of mongolian traditions they seem very interesting. Buddhism is an oral tradition, even today to certain extent, there can be some interesting things preserved in mongolian language. Enlightenment transcends time, it is new and it is same.
2. In my time I have read a lot of Theravada suttas, and even studied pali a little. I read through four of the Five Nikayas, and halfway of the fifth. And part of the Vinaya. That's long time ago, and I don't deny it is usefull knowledge.
There are some very negative things in the Theravada, which I will not go into, because of them I have no hesitation in saying what I have said.
3. In my experience Theravada is being used by the european theists for the purpose of destroying the alive Buddhism of the mahayana/zen/pureland/tantra. Don't fall into that trap.
First there is some real & alive buddhism of the Mahayana kind, in any given country. When it has been established and practiced for some time, the Theravada arrives and says that they are Buddhism and before there has been nothing! They have it written down in buddhist history, etc..
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Re: Best Places to Study Pali in Southeast Asia?

Postby Thrasymachus » Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:18 pm

sherabzangpo wrote:My point in asking: I'm just curious what the best places to study Pali are. My teacher here at IBC is also a Sri Lankan monk and seems quite learned in Pali. Judging from what I have seen, the Sri Lankans seems to be pretty good at Pali, so I don't think it's a big issue at least in that country (although I would not be surprised if it's a problem in some places). I am just wondering if it might be valuable to go elsewhere (aside from here at this school in Thailand) in case I want to do deeper into Pali studies.

...


How can you say that? If you are just learning a language, especially a dead one, even a pidgin level of fluency would seem fluent to you. Again you can scroll up to my post above to see the actually existing dire situation of the transmission of Pali in Sri Lanka. I forgot to include though, the source that Mazard attributed to that quote:
Eisel Mazard quoting a Sri Lankan Conference wrote:à bas le ciel: Sri Lanka is Different, Sri Lanka is the Same
The passage above is quoted from the (collectively-written) conclusions to "the International Conference on Buddha Sasana in Theravada Countries", convened in Colombo, Sri Lanka, January 16–19th, of 2003.


If you read more of his writings which can be found mostly at:
à bas le ciel: Overblog or à bas le ciel: Blogspot
he says that in Theravada countries the situation is so bad is they are taking works from the Pali Text Society in English which already has highly problematic, error prone and ideological translations and re-translating them to Thai, Cambodian, etc!

@Aemilius:
Yes, I know how stupid of me. Why learn the source texts of a religion that you claim to practice, when you can "This is Mahayana!" There are Tibetan monks that have been re-incarnating for almost a thousand years, they don't need to investigate(more like they don't need it for the same reasons they can believe nonsense of past human but not quite god-like entities that propagate themselves like that)...
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Re: Best Places to Study Pali in Southeast Asia?

Postby dzogchungpa » Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:01 am

As the Buddha said:
I allow you, monks, to learn the speech of the Awakened One according to his own dialect.
ཨོཾ་མ་ཧཱ་ཤུནྱ་ཏཱ་ཛྙཱ་ན་བཛྲ་སྭཱ་བྷཱ་བ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔

The thousands of lines of the Prajnaparamita can be summed up in the following two sentences:
1) One should become a Bodhisattva (or, Buddha-to-be), i.e. one who is content with nothing less than all-knowledge attained through the perfection of wisdom for the sake of all beings.
2) There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva, or as all-knowledge, or as a ‘being’, or as the perfection of wisdom, or as an attainment.
To accept both these contradictory facts is to be perfect.
- Conze
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Re: Best Places to Study Pali in Southeast Asia?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:17 pm

Thrasymachus wrote:@Aemilius:
Yes, I know how stupid of me. Why learn the source texts of a religion that you claim to practice, when you can "This is Mahayana!" There are Tibetan monks that have been re-incarnating for almost a thousand years, they don't need to investigate(more like they don't need it for the same reasons they can believe nonsense of past human but not quite god-like entities that propagate themselves like that)...


Please be serious! At the time of the chinese pilgrims Xuangzang and Yijing there were seven complete buddhist canons in India, of different Sravakayana schools, of blended Sravakayana and Mahayana schools. And the canon of the Mahayana.
They brought to China sutras of several different schools, translated only the Sarvastivada and Mahayana sutras. Sutras of other schools have been lost.
You should not forget that the Dharma existed as an oral teaching for considerable length of time, before the era of written sutras.
It is an exaggeration to claim that the pali texts are the "source" texts.
It is like the instructions for swimming, you learn it from someone who can swim. If the swimming instructions are old but the teachers can't swim, their 'instructions' will contain many errors and misunderstandings.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuanzang
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yijing_(monk)
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