Looking for a sutta

There is a sutta (or possibly a text from the vinaya?) that I read once, along with a discussion about it at DhammaWheel, and it intersects with another inquiry on this forum:[quote=“Vstakan, post:33, topic:4986”]
Could you please provide quotes from the Canon where the Buddha warns against mixing them [clarification, my interpretation: Sanskrit & Pāli]?[/quote]There is a sutta I once read, but I cannot find it again, and I have forgotten where in the Pāli Canon it is from, so I will try to relate it as best as I can remember:

Two Brahmans (or former Brahmans who were now monks?) approach the Buddha (or Ānanda or Sāriputta? someone who would know the Buddha’s stance on an issue?) with the intent to ask permission to render Buddhavacana/“verbal Dhamma” of some variety (possibly a discourse, or a chant, or some quasi-Vedic dedicatory verse they had written for the Buddha) into the style of Vedic literature (i.e. putting it into some sort of Brahmanical verse, or presenting Buddhavacana in the manner of the Vedas, or just putting it into the Vedic language).

The Buddha basically says that there is no point to rendering the Buddha’s teaching in arcane styles, if I remember the sutta correctly, but it has been too long since I read it.

Does anyone know what I might be remembering?

If I am remembering the sutta correctly, it is an interesting sutta, because the Buddha doesn’t talk about specifically translation very often, which this sutta is (indirectly) about.

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I think it could be a Vinaya fragment from Pi Tv Kd 15.

[details=Summary]Tena kho pana samayena yameḷakekuṭā nāma bhikkhū dve bhātikā honti brāhmaṇajātikā kalyāṇavācā kalyā­ṇa­vākka­raṇā. Te yena bhagavā tenu­pasaṅka­miṃsu, upasaṅkamitvā bhagavantaṃ abhivādetvā ekamantaṃ nisīdiṃsu. Ekamantaṃ nisinnā kho te bhikkhū bhagavantaṃ etadavocuṃ—“etarahi, bhante, bhikkhū nānānāmā nānāgottā nānājaccā nānākulā pabbajitā. Te sakāya niruttiyā buddhavacanaṃ dūsenti. Handa mayaṃ, bhante, buddhavacanaṃ chandaso āropemā”ti. Vigarahi buddho bhagavā … pe … kathañhi nāma tumhe, moghapurisā, evaṃ vakkhatha—“handa mayaṃ, bhante, buddhavacanaṃ chandaso āropemā”ti. Netaṃ, moghapurisā, appasannānaṃ vā pasādāya … pe … vigarahitvā … pe … dhammiṃ kathaṃ katvā bhikkhū āmantesi—“na, bhikkhave, buddhavacanaṃ chandaso āropetabbaṃ. Yo āropeyya, āpatti dukkaṭassa. Anujānāmi, bhikkhave, sakāya niruttiyā buddhavacanaṃ pariyāpuṇitun”ti.

Now at that time Yameḷu and Tekula were the names of two monks who were brothers, brahmins by birth, with lovely voices, with lovely enunciation. They approached the Lord; having approached, having greeted the Lord, they sat down at a respectful distance. As they were sitting down at a respectful distance, these monks spoke thus to the Lord: “At present, Lord, monks of various names, various clans, various social strata have gone forth from various families; these corrupt the speech of the Awakened One in (using) his own dialect. Now we, Lord, give the speech of the Awakened One in metrical form.” The Awakened One, the Lord rebuked them, saying:

“How can you, foolish men, speak thus: ‘Now we, Lord, give the speech of the Awakened One in metrical form’? It is not, foolish men, for pleasing those who are not (yet) pleased …” And having rebuked them, having given reasoned talk, he addressed the monks, saying:

“ Monks, the speech of the Awakened One should not be given in metrical form. Whoever should (so) give it, there is an offence of wrong-doing. I allow you, monks, to learn the speech of the Awakened One according to his own dialect.”[/details]

For an interesting discussion of this fragment please see pp. 112-139 of Bryan Levman’s paper.

As for the relevance of this fragment for the other discussion… Well, it doesn’t mention Sanskrit, which is unsurprising because there was no Sanskrit, it doesn’t even mention the Vedic language or Veda, it merely mentions the metrical form, i.e. a cultural practice.

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I actually found the discussion I had remembered at DhammaWheel and they cite it as Cv.V.33.1, although I am not familiar with that numbering system.

It’s the same fragment (and yeah, I am not familiar with that reference notation too :fearful:):

Cv.V.33.1 reports the efforts of two brahman bhikkhus who set the Buddha’s teachings to meter after objecting to the fact that bhikkhus who had gone forth from different clans, different nationalities, different families were spoiling the Buddha’s words by putting it in “own dialect.” The Buddha however forbade that his teachings be set to meter, and allowed that they be learned by each in "own dialect."

I think this analysis is not the only way to interpret this Vinaya passage, but it is a different topic :slight_smile:

As for the Buddha’s view of the language politics in the Sangha, you can also be interested in MN139:

“How, bhikkhus, does there come to be insistence on local language and overriding of normal usage? Here, bhikkhus, in different localities they call the same thing a ‘dish’ [pāti], a ‘bowl’ [patta], a ‘vessel’ [vittha], a ‘saucer’ [sarāva], a ‘pan’ [dhāropa], a ‘pot’ [poṇa], a ‘mug’ [hana] or a ‘basin’ [pisīla]. So whatever they call it in such and such a locality, one speaks accordingly, firmly adhering [to that expression] and insisting: ‘Only this is correct; anything else is wrong.’ This is how there comes to be insistence on local language and overriding normal usage.

“And how, bhikkhus, does there come to be non-insistence on local language and non-overriding of normal usage? Here, bhikkhus, in different localities they call the same thing a ‘dish’ … or a ‘basin.’ So whatever they call it in such and such a locality, without adhering [to that expression] one speaks accordingly, thinking: ‘These venerable ones, it seems, are speaking with reference to this.’ This is how there comes to be non-insistence on local language and non-overriding of normal usage.

“So it was with reference to this that it was said: ‘One should not insist on local language, and one should not override normal usage.

One may ask why the Suttas were translated in other Indic languages, then. A possible answer could be that they were not translated but rather transformed by way of applying regular sound changes (both Prakritizing or Sanskritizing) to the original text of the Sutta.

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Vinaya referencing is complicated, with multiple referencing systems used side by side, even in the basic source works.

This reference is to the chapter and section of the Culavagga, which is often used as a pair for the Mahavagga. These were published as the first and second volumes of the PTS Pali edition of the Vinaya. So on the Khandhaka division page we find them as “Vin i” (= Mahavagga) and “Vin ii” (= Culavagga). We should probably add these titles to the page for clarity. Oh, well!

Now, these two sections are in fact nothing more than recitation divisions of the Khandhakas in Pali:

  • Mahavagga = Khandhakas 1–10
  • Culavagga = Khandhakas 11–22

These terms are widely used in Pali circles, which is, I think, regrettable. Mahavagga and Culavagga are generic terms, which are used for many different texts, so it invites ambiguity. Further, the division is only found in Pali, and not in the other Vinayas. So when we organized the texts for SC we ignored this division and used the actual semantic structuring of the text into Khandhakas.

To get from that reference to what we have on SC, add ten to the Cv number, so Cv.V becomes Kd 15. (The use of roman numerals for referencing is another regrettable legacy!) Open up the relevant page in the translation:

ctrl + f “33.1” and there you are. If you hover over the reference in the margin, it explains that it is “Chapter and section of Pali Text Society editions”.

You can also go to this section directly by appending the normalized reference to the URL: pi-tv-kd15#Kd.15.33.1.