Learning Pali for a Hindi speaker

I am a fluent Hindi speaker (who has learnt some Sanskrit in school long ago) and would now like to learn pali to get started with reading the suttas on my own. My preference is to take some dedicated time out (say 3-6 months) to formally learn the language and also immerse in the suttas. I would prefer to learn the roman script even though I am can read Devnagri.
Can you suggest some options for me in India or neighboring countries? I am based in India, and cannot afford the living and tuition expenses in the West. My apologies if this has already been asked earlier. I did search the discussion forum but could not find a response to my specific question.


You can use these books :


Thank you. But I was looking for places where I can learn this through a teacher, rather than do it myself.

The Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies has live online courses in Pali for beginners, although they don’t appear to be in session at the moment. I think they follow the UK semester schedule.

If you complete Level 1 then you can join the Pali Reading Club to discuss sutta translations with others.

I’m not sure if Ven. Bodhi is still running his course for beginners or not, someone else can comment on that.


You can try looking in Sri Lanka. There are several universities that teach Pali. They probably have online classes, and tuition won’t be as expensive as it is in the West. Here is one university with Buddhist and Pali programs: The Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. They also have 1 year certificate courses, so you don’t have to sign up for multi-year courses.

Certificate Course in Pali Studies

  • The course provides a working knowledge of the Pali Language to those students who intend to pursue advanced studies in Pali language and literature or in Theravada Buddhism. It consists of 120 teaching hours in three steps:
  • Ability to comprehend and construct simple sentences
  • Competence to translate and compose complex Pali passages
  • Competence to comprehend Pali canonical and post-canonical literature
    Fees –
  • Registration – 100 (US$) [half fee for Buddhist Clergy and SAARC]
  • Course Fee – 1000 (US$) [half fee for Buddhist Clergy and SAARC]
  • Fees: US $1100 (US $550 for SAARC students)

It also mentions “casual students”:

Casual Student

  • Suitable courses by special arrangement with the Head of Department
  • Casual students will be entertained trough out the year. The courses/programmes will be conducted depending on the needs/requirements of the applicant.

Hi Vikas
I understand you prefer live instruction, but check out this link.

Requires a bit of discipline, but entirely web based and may be a good intro while you look for a live teacher.

( some users of the forum have followed this course and recommend it).

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Thank you. Will check this out.



Thankyou for pointing me to Pali lessons from Stephen Sas. I have completed that course and found it to be very useful. I have now moved on to Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Level 2 course.

In parallel, I tried using Sutta Voice app to listen to suttas and their english translations in the hope of further improving my pali skills. I started with Samyutta Nikaya 7.1. But the pali text and the english translations do not seem to match at times which makes it difficult to use it as tool for learning pali. Would you have any advice on how to work around this?


Could you give a more concrete example of what doesn’t match?

The segment matches in Voice are the same as they are on the SuttaCentral main page, if you set bilingual mode and use the segmented English translations. This does only apply for Bhante Sujato’s translations, other translations are coded differently and cannot be used in bilingual mode.

Sometimes the grammar of the target language does not allow to have the segment breaks exactly as they are in the root language, so that is a problem that is inherent in translation. Also, idioms are different in different languages, so there is not always a literal match. Is this what you have problems with?

But apart from that, I believe it can be very beneficial to listen to Suttas bilingually in Voice. Your ear gets used to how the Pali sounds, how sentences are structured, and it goes much more into your subconscious feeling for the language, which is something different from learning the grammar. Listen to the Pali and make sense of it from the English, without trying too hard to analyze the Pali while listening.

I must apologise for giving an impression that the translations do not match at all. They do almost all the time and are very beneficial.

However there are few segments that may throw a beginner like me offguard. For example, from SN7.2:4.1 to SN7.2:5.2 the translated segments seem to be rearranged and not a one to one match. This may be necessary for the reasons you highlighted in your response. However, it took me some time before I figured out what was going on.

I guess more I listen, more I would get comfortable with these.

PS. I am listening to Bhante Sujato’s translations.

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Yes. SN7.2:4.1-7.4 is a verse passage. In verse, the Pali uses grammar and word order much more unconventionally in order to fit the meter, so the likelihood that things need to be rearranged in translation is far greater.

It’s not so obvious in Voice what is prose and what is verse in the texts, as Voice has been designed mainly for the visually disabled, so such information that makes verse formally recognizable by the way it is presented has been left out. You don’t hear if something is indented or not, these things don’t matter for listening. On SC you can see it:

But by listening, as you get used to it, you will recognize from the rhythm that something is a verse.

I am sure that will be the case! I hope you are heaving fun with it!! :+1: :+1:

Perhaps this might require a new thread, but, if you have the time, I would find it valuable to hear your thoughts, experiences, etc. learning Pali as a fluent Hindi speaker who also has experience learning Sanskrit. Thank you.

My experience so far can be summed up as follows: ‘The more I know, the more I realise that I don’t know.’ There are some obvious advantages of being a Hindi speaker who has studied some Sanskrit grammar in early school years. But that can take me only so far.

  • Pali pronunciation comes naturally to me. This is perhaps the only skill where I have a clear advantage.
  • significant corpus of vocabulary between Hindi and Pali is similiar. But this can also be misleading, as there are words that have a special meanings in Pali.
  • another tricky thing for me is to resolve declensions and conjugations accurately. Unlike Sanskrit, Hindi does not have aglutinative inflexions. These sound familiar and lull me into a false sense of confidence. My accurracy levels are at around 50% here.
  • finally, long and complex sentence structures stump me. I often need to refer to translations to make sense of these the first time I encounter them.

In sum, I have realised that there is still significant effort needed from my side to fluently understand Pali. Have already taken my baby steps and hope to persvere on this journey.


Thank you very much; that was quite informative and very interesting. Your comments were well appreciated. Thank you.