Monthly Archives: August 2014

Four Talks on the Path

This talk was presented to the members of the Buddha Center, Second Life on Saturday, August 23, 2014.

Four Talks on the Path


Taking Refuge

A Buddhist accepts the Three Jewels, by taking “refuge” (sarana) in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The first word to think about here is this word “refuge.” What does it mean? What is “taking refuge”? To take refuge is to seek the protection of good as a defense against evil. It can be a physical cave, or a city, or it can be a relationship with a person or authority. In all cases, there must be actual protection in order for a thing to be a refuge. Otherwise, it is simply a lie. So what does it mean then to take refuge in this sense in the Buddha? For one thing, the Buddha died long ago, and made it clear he wasn’t coming back. Remember, the protection must be actual. Two possibilities present themselves: either the Buddha continues to exist in some transcendent sense and is able to confer actual protection (cf. the Third Jewel), or the Buddha was referring to something else. Possibly, it is meant that we should study his example, as a spiritual hero who has attained realization. Studying his example may include seeking to understand him personally, or getting to know his mind, insofar as it can be known from the writings passed down to us. This can be taken very far. It is easy to see this in the worship of the charisma of a teacher. This can range from “spiritual friendship” (the etymological and historical meaning of “lama”) to regarding the teacher as the actual Buddha. One may also worship the Buddha nature in oneself, and identify oneself with the Buddha, including visualization during meditation. Buddha, as the quality of fully realized sentience in itself, is also the fundamental nature of reality and the self. All of this is implied in the First Jewel.

The Second Jewel is taking refuge in the Dharma. The Buddha also said that after his death the Dharma is to be regarded as the Buddha. Some scholars opine that the original formula consisted of taking refuge in the Dharma only. The Dharma is the teaching of the Buddha, but the Buddha made it clear that it is also primeval, the original and true spiritual way that is ultimately coterminous with the nature of reality itself (like Vedic rta). Taking refuge in the Dharma means that we redress the ignorance that is the ultimate cause of suffering, more fundamental even than desire, and we take refuge in the Dharma by eschewing lying, striving ever towards the truth, not evading or avoiding truth, eschewing authorities, and discovering the truth for oneself primarily by the study of Dharma books and listening to Dharma teachers, and independent reading and reflection, but also by a personal commitment to view reality objectively, rationally, and scientifically and without attachment. All of this is implied in the Second Jewel.

The Third Jewel is taking refuge in the Sangha. The Sangha is formally the community of monks, but it is also the community of all beings, the community of all Buddhists, and the community of all superior beings, including the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arahants, and perhaps some god-beings who have converted to Buddhism. We take refuge in each of these in different ways, primarily by following the precepts, but the ultimate refuge can only be taken in the community of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Arahants. All of this is implied in the Third Jewel.

From the foregoing, we conclude that the following represent the highest vibration of the Three Jewels:

  • I take my refuge in the universal and innate Buddha sentience that is the fundamental reality of mind.
  • I take my refuge in the power of truth of the primeval way.
  • I take my refuge in the community of ultimately enlightened beings.

He who takes refuge is a refugee. A refugee is always in a state of flight, escaping from the evil that threatens him. The evil that threatens the Buddhist refugee is desirous attachment, the evil itself being karmic bondage and rebirth. Existence can never be redeemed. However deep one look into existence, one finds ever self-proliferating violence, chaos, conflict, and suffering. There is no world, the Buddha says, in which the preconditions of suffering are not fundamental, for what world is devoid of change? This flux or continuous change frustrates attachment and creates suffering. On the other hand, attachment creates these worlds for where there is perfect detachment, there is no desire for rebirth, and therefore rebirth itself ends, once all existing karma is expiated. In this way, existence is an illusion or a delusion. Existence is created by the mind, and can be destroyed by the mind. This is the answer to the question why we cannot create a perfect society of perfectly enlightened beings, and so redeem existence? If this were possible, it cannot be on the plane of change.

Still, human beings continue to labour and to build. The scriptures teach that we humans are in a unique situation to appreciate dharma, neither too distressed nor too blessed to be too involved in other, positive or negative actions respectively with no time or intention to develop the thirst for transcendence. However, human beings themselves have large groups that are either too poor or too rich to appreciate dharma, paralleling the greater condition of higher and lower beings.

When sangha and society are the same, such a society can be said to be relatively dharmic, i.e., as enlightened as possible within the human state. Shambhala is a city like this, and like Shambhala such a society will spontaneously produce many enlightened beings, as well as spiritual culture and a proliferation of the high arts and the best qualities in people generally. Creating such a society may be the next step in human evolution, as the present stage draws close to its conclusion. Ironically, Buddhism, with its long history of poverty, may become the true religion of technocracy, as prophesied in the Kalachakra.

Some people long for the end of samsara, whereas others who criticize Buddhism say that Buddhism is nihilism because once all beings are enlightened, existence will cease. However, where the scriptures refer to the end of samsara they are referring to the end of desirous attachment and rebirth, for samsara is beginningless and therefore must be endless as well. Samsara is none other than the principle of temporal differentiation itself, the originating principle that is one polarity of the whole and therefore essential. Samsara is therefore beginingless in time and infinitely differentiated. Since the ultimate principle of differentiation is the karmic agency itself, there are an infinity of beings caught in an endless cycle of transmigration, illusory may be, but experienced for all that.


The Four Noble Truths

The only thing more fundamental to formal Buddhist belief than the Four Noble Truths is Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels. All Buddhists accept the Four Noble Truths. However, what do the Four Noble Truths mean? We can address this using the method of questioning.

The popular formulation of the Four Noble Truths goes something like:

  1. Life is suffering.
  2. Suffering is caused by desire.
  3. The end of of desire is the end of suffering.
  4. The way to end desire is the Noble Eightfold Path.

I will restate them as follows in more exacting language, to clarify what we are really talking about:

  1. The nature of rebirth is to suffer.
  2. The root cause of suffering is the attachment of desire.
  3. Through the extinction of the attachment of desire, suffering ceases.
  4. The way to extinguish the attachment of desire is to follow the noble eightfold path in accordance with the middle way between all extremes. The eight steps are an elaboration of the perfections of the body (word, deed, and livelihood); heart (effort, mindfulness, and meditation); and mind (understanding and intention).

Much is made of the psychological implications of the Buddha’s teachings, and his apparent reticence with respect to questions concerning metaphysics. Nevertheless, a metaphysical construct underlies and implies them, as they too are implicit in reality. Therefore the question arises, What is the reality implied by the Four Noble Truths? Alternatively, what is their essential nature?

Rebirth is the fundamental characteristic of samsara, the differentiated phenomenology that human beings as sentient subjects experience in and through the body as “lived reality,” governed by karma, the law of cause and effect on all levels – mental, verbal, and physical. It is rebirth, driven by karma, and characterized by suffering, that is the fundamental problem of the Buddha. The Buddha does not accept any mode of existence that implies change (or flux) as a solution to this problem, since desire posits stasis and all lived realities are impermanent and transitory by nature. This is the very definition of samsara. Therefore, the Buddha posits transcendence as an absolute goal that necessarily implies the cessation of lived reality. This may or may not imply the cessation of the ontological substrate itself, since there are indefinite numbers of suffering beings besides oneself. Salvation only applies to the individual who achieves the goal of absolute transcendence on his or her own. The salvation of one does not imply the salvation of all. Therefore, to end samsara itself one would have to contrive it so that everyone in a single human generation achieves transcendence together. Although possible in theory, given what we know now about the extent of the universe it does not seem even remotely plausible. Therefore, we take the view that samsara, understood metaphysically or ontologically, is eternal and infinitely differentiated, rather than finite and limited. There are other good arguments for this view as well, especially all of the same problems that are associated with theism, including theism itself. This in turn leads us further, to the ultimate view that samsara is actually the natural antipode of nirvana and that reality itself must be trans-dual. This view is called the “clear light.” This leads to the realization that samsara and nirvana are one, and further to the realization that pain and suffering themselves are illusions, swallowed up in the natural perfection that must be the true ground. Nevertheless, the experience of suffering exists, even if only as the illusion of an omniscient and perfect Buddha nature. This is the trans-dual view.

The infinity of samsara implies an infinity of individually differentiated mind streams (santanas). This also corresponds to what we experience in the world. These mind streams are not attas (Sanskrit atmans) because their continuity is temporal, not spatial. They are the fundamental reality of samsara and their interaction creates perception that in turn creates lived reality, characterized by desire, suffering, and ignorance. However, as we have shown desire and suffering to be illusions, so too is ignorance an illusion of the underlying Buddha nature that is the subtle essence of the mind streams themselves. The mind streams themselves are essentially information, i.e., karmic propensities or tendencies. Thus, lived reality itself is information. “Matter” is a delusion of the senses.

The Buddha never states that transcendence implies cessation in the ontological sense. In fact, he continuously implies that the individual who achieves transcendence is immortal. What is rejected is not even samsara, which, as I have shown, is ontologically essential and therefore indestructible, but illusory attachments that create the illusion of suffering, concealing the fundamental Buddha nature from its own realization. The cessation implied by nirvana is the cessation of an illusion resulting from the delusion that lived reality presents a complete and self-sufficient explanation of existence, especially the belief in the self that underlies the illusions of permanence, satisfactoriness, attachment, etc. The attachment to desire is therefore ultimately extinguished by the realization that there are no selves, no permanent things that can be possessed and held in stasis forever, and that therefore to desire these things in a fixed way or “with attachment” inherently causes pain. That this view has social and political implications is apparent.

Theoretically, one can enjoy existence from moment to moment, without attachment, as a Buddha does, but such a solution is short-lived, for the price of the enjoyment of existence is the end of rebirth. If I were not attached then why would I create the karma of rebirth? It is a Catch-22.  This karma itself is created by desirous attachment. This is why vitalistic mysticism or mystical hedonism so-called (of the type associated with Aleister Crowley, for example; see J.F.C. Fuller, The Star in the West) is self-contradictory and often self-destructive. One can only enjoy the world when and to the extent that one renounces it. Only the real renunciate dare practise Tantra, the rarest jewel of all. “The world only gives herself up to those who do not desire her.”

Since desirous attachment is caused, i.e., by ignorance, it is not essential and can be extinguished through karmic means on the levels of body, heart, and mind in accordance with the middle way between extremes. The middle way has two aspects. Horizontally, it is the energy of peace, balance, and equilibrium. Vertically, it is the power of truth achieved by the pursuit of the trans-dual. The perfection of the body implies control of speech, action, and livelihood, both negative (i.e., self-restraint) and positive (i.e., good speech, good deeds, and good livelihood). This latter is for the bodhisattva, who seeks rebirth in the service of the future. The Arahant who seeks to transcend rebirth as soon as possible and for himself alone avoids good speech, action, and livelihood, in order to avoid creating merit that may lead to rebirth.

I have written elsewhere on the perfections of the body and how too literal understanding here is self-contradictory. The Buddha himself refers to these perfections as elementary and inferior, which is not to say that they are not necessary. The core perfections here are not killing, not stealing, no wrongful sex, not drinking, and not lying.

The perfection of the heart includes effort, mindfulness, and meditation. The perfection of effort implies enthusiasm. The perfection of mindfulness implies the realization of the essential emptiness of awareness. The perfection of meditation implies mental control.

Finally, the perfection of mind includes understanding and intention. Understanding implies the complete and perfect comprehension of dharma as the fundamental law of life. He who has right view knows through questioning that the dharma is true. He knows. Intention implies the will to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, the ultimate altruistic aspiration.

The perfection of the body is the perfection of action.

The perfection of the heart is the perfection of energy.

The perfection of the mind is the perfection of reason.


The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path (ariyo atthangiko maggo) is the conventional English translation of the Fourth Noble Truth (ariyyasaccani) of the Buddha, which exposes the spiritual praxis by which the Third Noble Truth, i.e., the cessation of existential suffering (dukkha), articulated in the first three noble truths, is realized. The Noble Eightfold Path consists of eight “limbs” (anga) and is conventionally translated as:

  1. Right View (samma ditthi)
  2. Right Intention (samma sankappa)
  3. Right Speech (samma vaca)
  4. Right Action (samma kammanta)
  5. Right Livelihood (samma ajiva)
  6. Right Effort (samma vayama)
  7. Right Mindfulness (samma sati)
  8. Right Concentration (samma samadhi)

Later in His career, the Buddha reformulated the Noble Eightfold Path in terms of three primary attainments: Wisdom (panna), Morality (sila), and Meditation (samadhi). Dr. Peter Masefield has severely criticized the conventional translation of ariya as “noble,” but in fact almost every word of the conventional English translation is inadequate and misleading, both intrinsically and in terms of their connotations in English. The conventional English translations are too general and too vague to express what the eight critical constituents of the Buddhist praxis are in fact. In particular, the translations do not express the sequential nature of the path, a point made emphatically by Dr. Masefield in his Ph.D. thesis and subsequent publication, Divine Revelation in the Pali Canon. Thus, the impression that is left on the English reader is that this is a set of injunctions, not unlike the injunctions of ethical and belief-based religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, rather than a yoga. This vagueness has been taken up by religious Buddhists, both Western and Asian, so that the Noble Eightfold Path becomes little more than a belief system and an ethical system culminating in a vague notion of “meditation,” which in popular thinking connotes little more than relaxation therapy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consequently, many Westerners practice “meditation” based on little more than an intellectual assent to a system of doctrines and the following of basic ethical rules as not killing, not stealing, chastity, not lying, and not drinking or taking drugs. As I have shown elsewhere, the Buddha Himself disparaged both religion (Brahmanism) and ordinary ethics, which He designated as “elementary matters of mere morality.” This way of thinking is based on a misunderstanding of the word samma, which does not mean “right” or even “righteous,” but rather connotes “completeness” and even “perfection.” Similarly, the word ariya does not primarily mean “noble,” with its English racialist and classist connotations, but rather “high,” “ideal,” “pure,” “perfect,” and “sublime” – qualities that are attainable by all races and classes. Even these words do not properly connote the meaning of the word “ariyan,” which refers specifically to the ancient Indian or Vedic way of the rishis that the Buddha sought to restore to its primordial purity. Thus, it also connotes “spiritual” as distinct from “religious” (in the bad or superficial sense, i.e., a system of mere observances), except that the connotation of the English word “spiritual” is too weak. “Exalted” is better.

The following translation is my attempt to find an English version of the Noble Eightfold Path based on these and additional considerations based on a profound re-examination of the literal and etymological meaning of the Pali, for which I have relied heavily on the Pali-English Dictionary of the Pali Text Society, rooted in the primary understanding of the path as a system of yoga based on a universalist understanding of spiritual aspiration and experience.

The Fourth Sublime Fact

The Sublime Eight-Part Method

Gnosis (Wisdom)

Perfect Understanding

Perfect Intention


Perfect Speaking

Perfect Acting

Perfect Living

Mental Concentration

Perfect Striving

Perfect Realization

Perfect Transcendence

When one looks at the Sublime Eight-Part Method in this way, the structure of the way as a reflection of the anatomy of the person becomes self-evident. Thus, the first two parts correspond to the faculty of thinking; the following three parts correspond to speaking and action, thus completing the triad of thought, word, and deed. The concluding, supermundane parts correspond to will, consciousness, and transcendent or trans-dual consciousness respectively. Students of anatta (the doctrine of “no-self”) may also be disconcerted to discover that sati also means “self-possession,” “self-consciousness,” i.e., the sentience of sentience in itself, as distinct from the sentience of phenomena.

The most disconcerting element of this exegesis, which also forms a critical aspect of Dr. Masefield’s analysis, is that the first part of this method does not refer merely to intellectual or philosophical belief, but rather to the perfection of the salvific knowledge of dharma – a detail that is almost entirely neglected in the West, and thus (according to this interpretation) vitiating or at best diminishing the nearly exclusive Western emphasis on meditation.  The anti-intellectual prejudice is so ingrained in certain circles of Western Buddhism that anyone who actually thinks about the teachings is disparaged as a mere academic. Some Buddhist groups regard questioners as potential trouble-makers.  This merely mirrors the modern Western prejudice against philosophical speculation and the widespread ignorance that characterizes North American society in particular. On the other hand, certain religionists would also have it that ethics or morality constitute the basis of the method, followed by meditation, with wisdom as the culmination of the path. This interpretation is precisely opposite to the exposition of the Buddha Himself.


The Arrows of the Path

Soon after one begins to study religion phenomenologically as the exploration of actual experiences, one discovers that experiential spirituality includes both active and passive approaches. The passive approach studies those experiences that occur to others and indirectly through whatever monuments they bequeath to us, their successors. This is the orthodox approach that has become the religious establishment of the new world order, the organization of the great religious monuments of humankind. Their names are familiar to us: the Bible and the Qur’an are the two great Western examples. In Asia, the Vedas, the Pali Canon, and the Tibetan and Chinese canons, including the Taoist canon, fall into this category, along with many others in both the West and Asia. These traditions have been codified through long discussion over centuries, and are all deeply influenced by the feudal period of history. For most of them, feudalism came later than the period of their inception and is now in its senescence, especially the belief in authority, the tendency to fundamentalism, and a hierarchical collectivist totalitarianism that would not be tolerated in ordinary society today. A notable exception to the foregoing generalization is Islam.

The active approach to the phenomenological exploration of spiritual experience entails the deliberate induction of experiences that may be described as “spiritual,” “religious,” or “mystical.” Experiences of this type are not merely experienced; they are also sought and have been for tens of thousands of years. It is certainly true that the religious monuments referred to above are amongst the greatest works of human genius and  true wonders of the world, if by “greatness” we mean beauty, sublimity, profundity, humanity, depth, splendour, grandeur, and ultimate righteousness, as well as the capacity to induce these qualities in others. The traditions associated with these icons receive the utmost veneration of billions of humans, and have since very early in their inception. All tend to various degrees of mutual animosity and hostility.

Orthodoxy, as noted above, tends to preserve traditional modes of thought and moral and ethical systems that affect the societies with which they co-exist. However, the growing power of science, technology, and industry has led to a new world order, a secular society that tolerates tradition because of its stability but is fundamentally hostile to it.

Both orthodoxy and the new world order are inherently interested in their own beliefs, values and systems of organization and all therefore are collectivist and conformist in principle. Active experiential spirituality, on the other hand, is inherently individual, experimental, challenging, and even dysfunctional (a common characteristic of all creative states). Thus, orthodoxy and the new world order both dislike it. Yet the authentic phenomenological exploration of experience leads inevitably to it, for no one can truly understand what one has not experienced and the direct experience of being demands the daring to demand a personal and direct relationship with it. Without this direct and personal relationship to being, there is no authenticity and no truth. In the words of Heidegger, science does not think. This judgment stands inscribed above all of the portals of academe today, which collaborates with the new world order in the service of tradition, whilst bantering or bickering over footnotes.

All of the foregoing is crystallized around the whole social hysteria and authoritarian collectivist conformism surrounding the legal status of LSD and other psychedelics, the ultimate Arrows of the Path. It is only when we imagine a world that is truly free that we realize just how truly unfree we are, as we enter the era of scientific totalitarianism foretold by Huxley. Huxley also supported the hypothesis, subsequently developed by Terence McKenna, of the origin of the rapid evolution of the human neocortex in the ingestion of hallucinogenic mushrooms by early primates. Any discussion of active spiritual phenomenology therefore carries with it an aura of danger and risk.

When one studies spiritual and religious experience in this way one begins to recognize the recurrence of methods and techniques that parallel Jung’s doctrine of the archetypes, which, either alone or in combination with psychedelics, have the capacity to induce authentic and transformative personal spiritual and religious crises in suitably prepared individuals in appropriate and supportive settings. These methods and techniques are complex, incorporating many different elements, conditioned by psychology, symbology, metaphysics, historical tradition, time, culture, place, etc. However, when one analyzes these one does not find increasing complexity. Instead, one discovers a finite set of active methods and techniques that in turn correspond to the methods and techniques used by archaic peoples whose origins in prehistory presumably reflect universal dynamics that underlie the historical traditions that survive today. These methods and techniques appear to operate in conjunction with inherent characteristics of human psychology to induce altered states of consciousness, including alterations in physical sensing, emoting, thinking, and changes in energy and behaviour. Although difficult and dysfunctional changes do occur, the overwhelming preponderance of judgment of those who have had these experiences, including highly educated and trained observers, is that they are positive, blissful, truthful, energizing and ennobling experiences, and that they lead to real, long-lasting and beneficial psychological changes and social behaviours. Similarly, Mircea Eliade found that the shamans were the psychologically healthiest and most integrated members of society. The religious monuments of tradition originate and produce experiences of just this type, much of their art, literature and oral traditions originating in just this type of experience. The scientific totalitarianism of the new world order, however, places a negative construction upon these experiences as well as tradition itself, the influence of which is being progressively eroded by the influence of the former, including judgments that these experiences are bizarre, dysfunctional, delusional, disorienting, false and individually and socially dangerous aberrations. Communism is the logical resultant of radical secularism in which religion is actively persecuted and criminalized. Today we see the convergence of communism and capitalism as capitalism itself becomes increasingly scientistic, materialistic, totalitarian, and authoritarian. Under the current dominant system of scientific totalitarianism and global corporatism, spiritual experience is medicalized and suppressed with drug treatments if necessary to induce a return to consensual conformity. It is barely tolerated in the form of the creative fringe.


Seven Errors of the Religionist

the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.

HH the Dalai Lama

The religionist holds the following to be the precepts of the true way:

  1. Truth proceeds from the particular, the external, and the past and is a function of language.
  2. Reason is either unnecessary or sufficient.
  3. The external guru is the authority.
  4. Discussion is non-virtuous.
  5. Obedience is the root of truth.
  6. Rituals and rules are ultimately efficacious.
  7. Blame is worthy.

However, in fact these are the precepts of the true way:

  1. Truth proceeds from the universal, the internal, and the momentary and is a function of realization.
  2. Reason is necessary and insufficient.
  3. The absolute guru is the authority.
  4. Discussion is virtuous.
  5. Obedience is the root of error.
  6. Rituals and rules are relatively efficacious.
  7. Blame is unworthy.

Comments Feature

On Wednesday, August 20, 2014 this blog was attacked, rendering the blog inaccessible for approximately one day. The cause of the problem was identified and removed. As a precaution, I have been advised to disable the comments feature and to remove any links to the Buddhanet website, which is, perhaps surprisingly, a well-known source of malware. Hopefully the problem will not recur.

Deconstructing Pali

The First Step in Learning Any Language
The Pali Alphabet
The Structure of Pali
The Pali Noun
Compounding Nouns
The Pali Verb
The Online Pali Canon
Improving Comprehension through Contextualizaton

This talk was presented to the members of the Buddha Center on Saturday, August 9, 2014.

The First Step in Learning Any Language

Tim Ferriss is able to converse in over 20 languages, not all with equal fluency, but well enough to speak in those languages with MIT students in a single evening. Ferriss has studied neuroscience and language acquisition at Princeton and has worked for Berlitz. He is the author of “How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in One Hour.”

As a result of his studies he concluded that the first step in language acquisition is deconstruction, by which he means identifying the grammatical structures, rules, and sounds, developing a “big picture” comprehension of the language, determine what you need to learn to learn the language before learning the language, and design the most efficient method to get you to the goal, all of which – he says- can be accomplished in the first hour of study. This is completely contrary to how most schools teach languages, piecemeal, largely using memorization and rote learning in an analytical/functional approach, but very similar to how the famous American polymath Buckminster Fuller thought education should be designed. Most academics are specialists, and they teach their subject as a specialist would, whereas Fuller thought that students should start with the universe, and then deepen and refine their knowledge progressively over time through a pragmatic iterative experiential process. This is the task-oriented approach. The basis and method of this approach is simplification and focusing on the goal.  One can accomplish this by studying the syntax of a short sample of text, including verb conjugations, sentence structure, noun cases (a.k.a. declensions), and alphabet.

Sound simple? It is. Of course, there are languages and there are languages. In the next hour, we’re going to talk about Pali. Specifically, were going to deconstruct Pali in accordance with Mr. Ferriss’s advice, and we’re going to finish off with a word for word translation of the first stanza (three lines) of a Buddhist text from the most popular sutta of the Pali Canon, the Dhammapada. In addition, were going to do it in one hour. Sound impossible? Stay tuned.

The most important thing in education, as Plato pointed out, is motivation. Therefore, the first question you must ask yourself is: Am I motivated to learn Pali? I’m assuming everybody in this group is strongly motivated to understand the dharma. Translations are valuable, of course, but every translation is only as good as the translator, and it is very difficult to convey all the nuances of the original words of a language in a translation, as we shall see. Learning Pali is as close as we can come to hearing the original words of the Buddha, which the Buddha himself said is the first step in the path of understanding the perfect philosophy.

Fortunately for us, we already have several advantages in learning Pali. First, Pali is an Indo-European language, like English. Therefore, the underlying grammar, syntax, and even word roots of Pali are similar to English and therefore familiar to us. I have worked for the past ten years on a translation of the Tao Te Ching, written, of course, in Old Chinese, and I can tell you that translating the Pali Canon is far easier than translating the Tao Te Ching. Second, Pali, as an oral language, has no alphabet. Instead, Pali sounds/letters are represented using the orthography of the cultures in which it is studied, including Brahmi, Sinhala, Khmer, Burmese, Thai, Devanagari, and Mon. Thanks to the Rhys David’s and the Pali Text Society, the entire Pali Canon, as well as other Pali texts, are available in the Roman alphabet. Consequently, there is no need for the Western student of Pali to learn a foreign alphabet. Third, Pali is a dead language. The likelihood that we will ever have the opportunity to converse in Pali is approximately zero, nor is this skill necessary to understand the words of the Buddha. Therefore, we will only be discussing reading and translating Pali here. We can however acquire a reasonably good approximation of Pali pronunciation very easily, for purposes of discussing Pali words and perhaps chanting, though the latter is not our focus. Unlike English, Pali is a phonetic language, so it is pronounced as it is spoken, making pronunciation easy. Reading and translating Pali are of course two distinct activities, but the best way to learn to read Pali is to translate it. If we commit enough time to translation, reading will come naturally, so in this talk we will be discussing translation only and nothing else. This is much easier than “learning a language,” which implies fluent reading, writing, composition, speech, and vocabulary acquisition. Fourth, the Pali of the Pali suttas, including the Vinaya and the Suttapitaka, is far simpler and more basic than the comparatively sophisticated later texts of the Abhidhamma and the commentaries. This indicates their antiquity. If our objective is to understand the Word of the Buddha, the suttas are what we want to study. Finally, fifth, there is a variety of excellent online resources to aid us, including interactive Pali dictionaries, grammar crib sheets, courses, and of course, the entire text of the Pali Canon itself is available online in Romanized Pali text. In the notecard version of this talk, I will include references to these resources with the relevant URLs and in the online version, I’ll be including appendixes with tables and additional complete information only alluded to in this talk that you can use to decipher your first Pali text!

 One thing that you really should have before studying Pali is a basic understanding of general grammatical terms and concepts. If you’ve studied Latin at any level, then you probably know all you need to know. If you haven’t, and you really don’t know the difference between a subject and an object, or the meanings of such terms as noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, declension, conjugation, etc., then perhaps you should spend some time studying basic grammar. Wikipedia will give you all you need. I will, however, include a very brief, high-level overview of grammar in this talk too. While this talk will not make you an accomplished Pali scholar, it will give you the basic tools you need to produce a competent English translation of any sutta.

The Pali Alphabet

The Pali alphabet consists of 41 letters, including 1 pure nasal, 8 vowels, and 32 consonants divided into five groups. Thus, Pali has 15 more letters than English. Fortunately for us, Pali does not have its own script. The Pali language, which was of course an oral language, has always been transcribed using the letters of the culture in which it is being transmitted, so there are multiple scripts  used to represent Pali, none of them inherent in Pali itself. This is good news for English-speakers and others who use the Roman script, because the entire corpus of Pali literature is available in Roman script both in print and online and there is no need to learn a new alphabet to learn Pali. In order to represent the extra Pali letters, English uses diacritics, which is just a fancy word for dots and lines, and letter ‘h.’ There really aren’t as many letters as it sounds, either, because in English, we consider a long and a short vowel to be one letter but in Pali they are two. In Pali, the addition of an ‘h’ to a ‘k,’ ‘g,’ ‘c,’ ‘j,’ ‘t,’ ‘d,’ ‘p,’ or ‘b’ also makes a separate letter, so now we’ve reduced the total number of essential letters in Roman transcription to 21, five less than English!  Pali is also a phonetic language. It is pronounced exactly as it is spelt and, being a dead language, there is little historical drift from this, so in Pali we have no words like “knight.” English used to be a phonetic language, so “knight” was pronounced “k-nicht.” Tibetan is even worse!

One irritating feature of Pali dictionaries and glossaries is that they follow the order of the Pali alphabet, which differs from the order of the English alphabet, which makes it hard to look words up. On the other hand, the order of the Pali alphabet is extremely logical, especially the consonants. The order of the Pali letters corresponds to how the mouth is shaped and where the tongue is placed to pronounce each letter. The consonants are divided into five groups, called guttural, palatal, cerebral, dental, and labial. Guttural means pertaining to the throat or gullet, so this means that the tongue is “pointed” at that region of the mouth. Palatal letters are pronounced with the tongue touching the roof of the mouth. Dental letters are pronounced with the tongue touching the teeth. Labial letters are pronounced with the lips. Cerebral letters are pronounced with the tongue lying limp and wet in the hollow of the mouth.

 Some Pali consonants are represented in English by the addition of the letter ‘h,’ which refers to the breath. English also has this, like the compound letters ‘ch,’ ‘th,’ and ‘ph,’ but the pronunciation of the Pali letters differs from the English. In Pali, the ‘h’ sound is made by adding a puff of air to the consonant, so ‘th’ for example is pronounced like a ‘t’ with a puff of air, more like ‘shit hole’ than ‘the,’ and ‘ph’ is pronounced like ‘top hat,’ not an ‘f.’  Otherwise the consonants are very much like English, with the exception of ‘c,’ which is always pronounced like ‘ch’ in ‘church,’ and ‘v,’ which is pronounced more like a ‘w’ except when it is the initial letter, when it sounds like the English ‘v’ in ‘view’ for example. The addition of a dot below a letter, indicating a dental, gives the consonant a sharper sound, like the ‘t’ in ‘tack’ versus the ‘t’ in ‘truck.’ The addition of the dot to the ‘m,’ sometimes represented by an n with a dot over it or an ‘n’ with a tail, makes the nasal, like ‘ng’ in ‘ring.’ Some Pali grammars make a distinction between the pure nasal and the guttural nasal. Finally, the ‘n’ with a curvy line above it (called a tilde) is pronounced like the ‘n’ in ‘manyana.’ The rest of the consonants sound pretty much like English. Of course, every culture has its own accent so Pali pronounced by a Thai will not sound like the Pali pronounced by a Burmese, etc., and therefore neither will you.

The vowels progress from A through I, U, E, and O. A, I, and U have both short and long forms, whereas E and O are always long. A horizontal line shows the long vowel over the letter. Short a sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘another,’ long ‘a’ like ‘a’ in ‘art.’ Short I sounds like ‘I’ in ‘ink,’ long ‘I’ like the ‘e’ in ‘eel.’ Short ‘u’ sounds like ‘u’ in ‘under,’ long ‘u’ like ‘u’ in ‘prudent.’ E and O are usually long, like ‘age’ and ‘own’ respectively. When followed by a double consonant they are short. Long vowels are also elongated, and pronounced for one and a half or two times as long as the short vowel. This naturally accents Pali words on the long vowels.  Often the terminal ‘a’ is not pronounced unless it falls after a double consonant.

Of course, the purpose of this talk is not to make you all into fluent Pali speakers, but it is useful to know how to pronounce the words approximately correctly since we may use Pali words in English discussions of Buddhadharma.

The Structure of Pali

Pali is an Indo-European language, and as such is very similar to other Indo-European languages both in diction and in grammar. It is even possible to recognize Pali and Sanskrit words in some English words, such as Aryan, deva, mandala, mantra, maya, yoga, and others. If you have ever studied Latin, then you are familiar with how the functions of words in sentences are indicated by the addition of specific endings to words, and how these endings vary according to different classes of words. This is still true of languages such as French and Spanish I believe, but less so of English, where the function of the words is also shown by their position in the sentence. Still, English has suffixes like ‘s’ to form a plural or a possessive, the addition of ‘ly’ to an adjective to make an adverb, etc. Similarly, the declension of adjectives and adverbs must match the declension of the nouns that they modify. In general, word order in Pali is quite like English so often one can get a sense of the meaning just from translating the Pali words in order. However, in order to make a more precise translation, or if the syntax is more complex, it is important to be able to distinguish between the basic parts of speech and the endings that indicate their function in the sentence.

The Pali Noun

The stem of a Pali noun may be male, female, or neuter. As with Latin, French, and other similar Indo-European languages, the gender does not necessarily correspond to what one might expect! There are two numbers, singular and plural, and eight cases: nominative, accusative, instrumental, genitive, dative, ablative, locative, and vocative. Unlike English, where case is inferred from location and context, the case of a Pali noun, again like Latin, indicates the grammatical function of the noun in the sentence.

Nominative nouns are usually the subject of the sentence.

Accusative nouns are usually the object of the sentence.

The vocative is used for address, usually conveyed in English by “o.”

The remaining cases are generally indicated in English by the use of propositions.


Instrumental: with, by

Genitive: of, ‘s

Dative: to, for

Ablative: from

Locative: in

Four types of nouns are common: masculine and neuter, with stem ending in a, and feminine with stem ending in i. There are only three declensions. In order to decline a noun, you remove the ending, and add the ending corresponding to the part of speech. When translating, the process is the reverse. You identify the stem, and then determine the part of speech from the ending. We’ll do this for one noun only, just to give you the idea.

Dhamma, doctrine, quality, is a masculine word, indicated by the stem ending in a. The declension follows:

Nom.: dhamm-o, dhamm-a

Acc.: dhamm-ang, dhamm-e

Gen.: dhamm-asa, dhamm-anang

Dat.: dhamm-aya, dhamm-anang

Inst.: dhamm-ena, dhamm-ehi

Abl.: dhamm-a, dhamm-ehi

Loc.: dhamm-e, dhamm-esu

Voc.: dhamm-a, dhamm-a

In order to work out the rest, you should compile these into a table. Then, when you encounter a noun in a text, work out the stem and then refer to the ending to determine the part of speech. Extensive crib sheets with the declensions, conjugations, pronouns, and other grammatical information are available on Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Pali language course online.

Compound Nouns

It’s very common in Pali to form new words by combining old words into new compound nouns especially. Although many of these words appear in the dictionary as words in their own right, it is still useful to understand the component words, which were presumably closer to the surface when the Pali Canon was composed than now. For example, in the stanza that we will be deconstructing, the first word is Manopubbangama. The dictionary will tell you this means “directed by mind.” However, one quickly discovers that Manopubbangama is Mano + pubba + anga-ma.

Mano, the mind/heart/consciousness (masc. nom. singl.)

Pubba, having been before (adj.)

Ga, go, goes (verb)

“the mind that has gone before”

The Pali Verb

Pali verbs have three persons, two numbers, six tenses, three moods, and two voices. Today we are going to look at the three singular and plural persons of the present indicative active = the basic tense that expresses direct action by the subject in the present.

Verbs consist of a root and a present stem. The present stem is the basis of the conjugation into the present tense, referring to an action in present time. There are three persons: first (I, we), second (you, ye), and third (he, she, it, they). The stem of different types of verbs ends in different letters: a is common. Thus, the present tense singular ends in -mi, -si, -ti, and the plural ends in -ma, -tha, -nti. For example:

Root: pat, fall

PT stem: pata

First: patami,patama

Second: patasi, patatha

Third: Patati, patanti

Again, when translating, identify the root from the stem, then identify the person from the ending.

With both nouns and verbs you may find duplicate possible endings. In this case, you must determine the correct part of speech from the context. Sometimes where the parts come together in a word, the vowels may change slightly.

Locating English Translations in the Online Pali Text Version of the Pali Canon

Something you’re going to want to do as you read the translations and become more familiar with Pali is to find the original Pali word or phrase underlying a translation. You can do this using the complete Pali text of the Pali Canon that is available online at This is the Burmese edition finalized in May 1956 because of the Sixth Buddhist Council, held to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of the reputed “passing on” (parninibbana) of the Buddha, believed to have occurred in 544 BCE. There are other editions too, but this is the only complete online edition that I know of. A critical edition of the Pali Canon is in preparation apparently but will take many years to complete.

In order to find your text you must know how the Pali Canon is organized. The Pali Canon consists of three large divisions, of which only the first two concern us here – the Vinaya, essentially the rules of the Order with additional historical information, and the Suttapitaka, the dialogues or conversations attributed to the Buddha and his close disciples. The recitation of the Vinaya at the First Buddhist Council is attributed to Upali, formerly a barber, who was considered to be the foremost expert on the Vinaya, having learned it directly from the Buddha himself. The recitation of the Suttapitaka is attributed to Ananda, the Buddha’s personal attendant during the last 25 years of the Buddha’s life, who was famous for his memory. The word “Pitaka” means “collection” or “container.”

If you go to the Tipitaka website, and click on “Roman – Web,” you’ll see the Tipitaka as the first item in the window to the left. The Atthakatha and Tika refer to the commentaries and subcommentaries, written hundreds of years later. Anya refers to other, later works. If you open the folders for the Vinaya and Suttapitaka, you’ll see a subset of folders, corresponding to the main divisions of each collection. I’m not going to recap the entire structure of the Pali Canon here, but you can find it discussed in a great little book online, Russell Webb’s Analysis of the Pali Canon, which I will include in the References in the notecard and online. Instead, let’s look up something. In the Digha Nikaya, in the first sutta of the Pali Canon, entitled the Supreme Net (Brahmajala Sutta), in the Large Section on Morality, the Buddha provides a list of “wrong means of livelihood,” including various kinds of fortune telling, magic, witchcraft, and other things. He describes all these things as “base arts.” Suppose we’re interested in finding out just what the equivalent Pali phrase to “base arts” means.

The Large Section on Morality is the third section of the Digha Nikaya. The paragraph number is 21. If we find the 21st numbered paragraph in the Pali version, we see that it follows immediately after the heading, Mahasilam, which means the Great Morality. The noun immediately before “base arts” is “living,” so I entered “life” in the Tamilcube English-Pali dictionary and saw that “jiva” is the Pali word for “life” or “living.” This is also the 13th word in the Pali text, so I enter the next word in the online dictionary and immediately recognize the third person plural ending – nti. We discover that ‘kappenti’ means something like ‘they make.’ Looking at the word before ‘jivatam,’ ‘micchajivena,’ we note that ‘miccha’ means ‘untruth, falsehood, false, wrongly, wrong.’ Thus, we have the basis for the phrase “wrong means of livelihood” which follows ‘base arts’ in our translation. Going back one more word, we find ‘tiracchanavijjaya.’ This word stumps our dictionary. It is probably a compound of some sort. The word before it, ‘evarupaya,’ seems to mean something like ‘only resource,’ referring perhaps to ‘earning their living,’ and the word before that means ‘ate,’ so it seems likely that ‘tiracchanavijjaya’ is our word based on its position in the sentence! But what does it mean? A little experimentation with the dictionary soon discovers that ‘vijja,’ a feminine noun, means ‘higher knowledge, science,’ and that the ending –ya indicates an instrumental or locative singular. Thus, this word means ‘with, by, or in higher knowledge or science.’ From there it is a small step to discover that ‘tiracchana’ means ‘animal’ or ‘beast,’ a masculine noun. This is somewhat surprising, since we were expecting an adjective, so we look this word up in the Pali Text Society’s Pali-English dictionary, and discover that the literal meaning is ‘going horizontally,’ and that the word means ‘leading to rebirth among beasts.’ Thus, the original meaning of “debased art” means something like “a secret or esoteric knowledge or science that leads to an inferior animal rebirth.” Interestingly, the Buddha includes astronomy and weather forecasting, poetry composition, philosophy, accountancy, and medicine and surgery in this category, probably due to cultural associations with sorcery. By this means, we have deepened our understanding of the original text.

Higher Comprehension through Contextualization

A mechanical construction of a Pali text using one or more dictionaries may yield a creditable translation, certainly better than Google Translator, but the real understanding of any language comes from the study of its cultural context. Pali words are related to Sanskrit originals that in turn relate to many similar words in the Indo-European universe. These nuances and associations develop an ineffable intuition of the meaning of words that can only be developed by the study of the Pali words in context, and the study of the Pali etymologies themselves. As previously mentioned, many Pali words are created from component words that are easy to identify. Just as in English, studying the Pali etymologies will develop an intuitive impression of the types of concepts that the Pali might be referencing through psychological association. These insights in turn aid good translation. If one wants to pursue the matter still further, one might familiarize oneself with the cultural context of 5th and 6th century BCE India. The Vedic and Indo-European cultural legacies, the perennial philosophy, and shamanism as well as non-canonical Pali literature, collating different editions of the Pali Canon, collating different canons and translations of Pali texts, and finally the late commentaries, are all potential areas of opportunity that are opened up by the learning of Pali and that would in turn enrich one’s understanding of it. At each step, seeking the highest and most comprehensive point of view possible will accelerate learning and yield maximum benefit. In addition, learning Pali to study the dharma is an intrinsically meritorious activity.


The Pali Alphabet

  Roman Pali Alphabet Classes Pronunciation* Alt Code
1 a Vowels but, hut; a in banana
2 ā father, cart, heart 0257
3 i bit, tip, it
4 ī machine, keen, clean 0299
5 u put, foot, push
6 ū rude, boot, youth 0363
7 e way, fade, cape (long always except before a double consonant in which it is short – as in bed, bet, head
8 o home, bone, know (long always except before a double consonant in which it is short as in not, sawall)
9 Pure nasal as  or – pure nasal without release through the mouth
10 k Gutturals skin, cook, candle
11 kh king, backhand
12 g girl, good, gift
13 gh  log-head, big-house
14 sing, finger, ink 0324
15 c Palatals choose, chin, discharge
16 ch ranch-house, ranch-hand
17 j jug, gem, judge
18 jh hedge-hog
19 Ñ señor 164 (0241)
20 Cerebrals tongue tip curled back just under the hard palate 0803
21 ṭh tongue tip curled back just under the hard palate
22 tongue tip curled back just under the hard palate 0803
23 ḍh  tongue tip curled back just under the hard palate
24 tongue tip curled back just under the hard palate 0803
25 t Dentals stay, stand (but with the rip of the tongue at the back of the teeth)
26 th light-house, ant-hill (but with the rip of the tongue at the back of the teeth)
27 d dog, dirt, door (but with the rip of the tongue at the back of the teeth)
28 dh mad-house, red-house (but with the rip of the tongue at the back of the teeth)
29 n name, north, no (but with the rip of the tongue at the back of the teeth)
30 p Labials space, spend
31 ph top-hat, upheaval, uphill
32 b bag, born, bed
33 bh lab-host, rub-hard
34 m himmother, map
35 y Resonants yes, year, you
36 r ram, ring, roam
37 l lamp, light
38 tongue tip curled back just under the hard palate 0803
39 v  in-between the english v and w
40 s Spirants sit, story, smoke
41 h inherent, voiced fricative

*Metta Net. English-Pali Dictionary.

Brahmi script
Brahmi script (circa 3rd cent. BCE)

Pali Declensions of Nouns (Wikipedia)

[Editor’s Note: Pali, like all languages, is subject to changes over time, so different classifications of the endings may vary slightly according to the text and the authority.]

Pali nouns inflect for three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) and two numbers (singular and plural). The nouns also, in principle, display eight cases: nominative or paccatta case, vocative, accusative or upayoga case, instrumental or karaṇa case, dative or sampadāna case, ablative, genitive or sāmin case, and locative or bhumma case; however, in many instances, two or more of these cases are identical in form; this is especially true of the genitive and dative cases.


a-stems, whose uninflected stem ends in short a (/ə/), are either masculine or neuter. The masculine and neuter forms differ only in the nominative, vocative, and accusative cases.

Masculine (loka- “world”) Neuter (yāna- “carriage”)
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative loko lokā yānaṁ yānāni
Vocative loka
Accusative lokaṁ loke
Instrumental lokena lokehi yānena yānehi
Ablative lokā (lokamhā, lokasmā; lokato) yānā (yānamhā, yānasmā; yānato)
Dative lokassa (lokāya) lokānaṁ yānassa (yānāya) yānānaṁ
Genitive lokassa yānassa
Locative loke (lokasmiṁ) lokesu yāne (yānasmiṁ) yānesu


Nouns ending in ā (/aː/) are almost always feminine.

Feminine (kathā- “story”)
Singular Plural
Nominative kathā kathāyo
Vocative kathe
Accusative kathaṁ
Instrumental kathāya kathāhi
Dative kathānaṁ
Locative kathāya, kathāyaṁ kathāsu

i-stems and u-stems

i-stems and u-stems are either masculine or neuter. The masculine and neuter forms differ only in the nominative and accusative cases. The vocative has the same form as the nominative.

Masculine (isi- “seer”) Neuter (akkhi- “fire”)
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative isi isayo, isī akkhi, akkhiṁ akkhī, akkhīni
Accusative isiṁ
Instrumental isinā isihi, isīhi akkhinā akkhihi, akkhīhi
Ablative isinā, isito akkhinā, akkhito
Dative isino isinaṁ, isīnaṁ akkhino akkhinaṁ, akkhīnaṁ
Genitive isissa, isino akkhissa, akkhino
Locative isismiṁ isisu, isīsu akkhismiṁ akkhisu, akkhīsu
Masculine (bhikkhu- “monk”) Neuter (cakkhu- “eye”)
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative bhikkhu bhikkhavo, bhikkhū cakkhu, cakkhuṁ cakkhūni
Accusative bhikkhuṁ
Instrumental bhikkhunā bhikkhūhi cakkhunā cakkhūhi
Dative bhikkhuno bhikkhūnaṁ cakkhuno cakkhūnaṁ
Genitive bhikkhussa, bhikkhuno bhikkhūnaṁ, bhikkhunnaṁ cakkhussa, cakkhuno cakkhūnaṁ, cakkhunnaṁ
Locative bhikkhusmiṁ bhikkhūsu cakkhusmiṁ cakkhūsu

Present Tense Personal Endings

Present tense verb stem,-a ending

Singular Plural
1st person -mi -ma
2nd person -si -tha
3rd person -ti -nti

Personal Pronouns

Pali pesonal pronouns

 Analysis of the First Verse of the Dhammapada

Pali Word Root Ending POS Declension/conjugation Meaning(s)
Manopubbaṅgamā Mano + pubban + gam- -a Adjective ò Directed by mind, dominated by thought (lit. “mind-before-goes”)
dhammā Dhamm- -a Noun Masculine nominative plural dharma
manoseṭṭhā Man + setth- -a Adjective ñ Mind + Foremost, excellent
manomayā Man + may- -a Adjective ñ Made of mind, consisting of mind, made by the magic power of mind, magically formed
Manasā Man + as- -a Noun Neuter ablative singular (“from”) Mind, intention, having the intention of (adj.)
ce Ce Conditional particle Indeclinable If, even if
paduṭṭhena Padutthen- -a Adjective ñ Made bad, spoiled, corrupt, wicked (lit. “thief-footed”)
bhāsati Bhasat- -ti Verb 3rd person present tense Says, speaks, shines
va Conjunction Indeclinable or
karoti Karot- -ti Verb 3rd person present tense Does, acts, makes, builds
va Conjunction Indeclinable or
tato Tat- o Indicative Ablative From there, from that, thence, therefore, thereupon
nam Na- m Enclitic Accusative singular Just so, like this, as if, as
dukkhaṁ Dukkha- m Noun Neuter nominative-accusative singular Suffering, pain,  misery, agony, discomfort
anveti Anve- -ti Verb 3rd person singular Follows, approaches
cakkaṁ Cakk- -am Noun Neuter nominative-accusative singular (genitive-dative plural?) Wheel, circle, disk, cycle, command
va Va Indicative Particle Indeclinable Like, as
vahato Vaha- o Noun-adjective Masculine nominative singular Leader, cart, cartload; beast of burden; torrent; carrying, leading (adj.)
padaṁ Pada- -am Noun Neuter nominative-accusative singular (genitive-dative plural?) Foot; step, footstep, track

Manopubbaṅgam dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā;

Manas ce paduṭṭhen, bhāsati vā karoti vā,

Tato nam dukkhaṁ anveti, cakkaṁ’va vahato padaṁ.

 Literal translation

Dharma (is) directed by mind, mind foremost, mind made.

If one speaks or acts from corrupt mind,

From this just so suffering follows as the cart (or the beast) the wheel-track.

Final Translation

Directed by the anterior mind, appearances are pre-eminently mind, magically formed by the magical power of mind.

(Therefore,) if one speaks or acts from (or with) an evil mind,

Thereafter, just like that, despair follows, as the animal cart (follows) the rut.

Another Example

Sabbesu bhūtesu nidhāya daṇḍaṃ, aviheṭhayaṃ aññatarampi tesaṃ;

Na puttamiccheyya kuto sahāyaṃ, eko care khaggavisāṇakappo.


Sparing all beings from the rod,

Vexing not even one of them,

Not wanting a child, less a friend,

Go alone, like the sword-horned one.


Bhikhu Bodhi’s Pali course.

Bomhard, Allan R. (2012). An Introductory Grammar of the Pali Language. Charleston, SC: Charleston Buddhist Fellowship.

Duroiselle, Charles (1997). A Practical Grammar of the Pali Language. 3rd ed. Buddhadharma Education Association.

How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour.

Lessons of Language: Pali.

Narada Thera (1952). Elementary Pali Course. 2nd ed. Buddha Dharma Meditation Association.

Pali English Dictionary (accessed 2014, Sept. 3).

Pali Tipitika (accessed 2014, Sept. 3).

Pali Toolbox (accessed 2014, Sept. 3).

PTS Pali-English Dictionary (accessed 2014, Sept. 3).

Resources for Learning Pali (accessed 2014, Sept. 3).

Tamilcube Pali Dictionary (accessed 2014, Sept. 3).

Webb, Russell, ed. (1991). Analysis of the Pali Canon. 3rd ed. Wheel Publication #217. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society.