Pali words with a different meaning today

Isn’t Dharma also used as the universal laws that stay the same? Like the truths of how things work.

The classification of universal laws given by Venerable Narada (e.g. in Buddhism in a Nutshell, Ch.6) might help answer your question. He says that:
“According to Buddhism, there are five orders or processes (Niyamas) which operate in the physical and mental realms …”

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In Tagalog, the word dukkha means poverty. In Pali, the word dukkha means stress/unsatisfactoriness/suffering.


Oh, I didn’t know that!

This is another thing to bear in mind; not only do ancient words change in meaning, they change in different ways in different contexts. If you leave words untranslated, they may well mean quite different things to different people—and often they don’t realize it! Everyone thinks they’re reading the same word and it must therefore have the same meaning. How we have encountered the word is the right way, of course!


The word Bhikkhu in Marghadi language means, Bhi - Fear of this Sansara and Kkhu - to eradicate that fear. That is why when a person gets ordained, the person will recite following, “sabba dhukka nissarana nibbana sachcha karanaththaya”, to free from all suffering and to realise the ultimate of Nirvana.

That’s not the meaning of the word in Magadhi, or any language for that matter. It’s a moralizing play on words used in the commentaries.

The commentaries do this all the time; it’s a recognized exegetical technique. They play on words in different ways, often offering up multiple, often incompatible, explanations for words. These are intended as puns that provide fuel for reflection or context, and especially for teachers to use in talks. They should not be confused with the actual meanings of the words.

The word bhikkhu means “mendicant”, and it is related to the word bhikkhā meaning “almsfood”, or sometimes “food” in general.


Bhiksha is to seek for food on alms rounds.

But if that is the meaning, then even those who beg for food go from house
to house.

It is not a moralising play but understanding through Dhamma.

viññāṇa : in Pāli consciousness among many interpretations

viññāṇam : விஞ்ஞானம் in Tamil, Science or knowledge ( I found the connection rather cool :sunglasses:)


I’ve often been interested to see, in earlier English translations of texts, akusala translated as “sin” where my current understanding of it is as “unwholesome”. This perhaps reflects Victorian/Edwardian attitudes and Christian usage, understandable given the time and place which must always be taken into account. Our own translations and usages will one day be seen from the perspective of that time. We also see “church” used in some PTS translations.


13 posts were split to a new topic: A Rose by Any Other Name (sermon/talk/discourse)

[from R. Gombrich’s ‘Buddhism and Pali’ referencing K.R. Norman’s ‘Pali Literature’]

Now it is synonymous with, literally, the name of a language :slightly_smiling_face:


Yes ! Pāli does not mean Pali in Pāli ! :slightly_smiling_face:

(I’m not sure everyone agrees with Prof. Gombrich’s assertion that ‘Pāli’ can be derived from √paṭh, but it is very interesting.)


Re pali: it is also noteworthy that pa.di means “book” in the sense of religious text in Braj Basha AKA old Hindi, related to


At the time of the Buddha, “yogā” meant “attachment”. e.g. SN45.172

… These are the four attachments.

… ime kho, bhikkhave cattāro yogā.

Not only do we have yoga schools these days but we also have “yogis” who are participants in workshops and retreats. :meditation:

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Today I discovered from an article by Witkowski that the term pamsukulika as referring to the funeral dana cloth came from a custom of the family of the deceased draping cloth on the coffin etc for the pamsukulika monks to take (as these monks would show up at the cremation for the shroud in which the body had been transported, as opposed to officiating a ceremony).

This is quite different to what is called pamsukula cloth offering today!

That’s the only use of the term I’m familiar with. Can you elaborate a bit?

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Maybe it’s just Australia, but I have only ever seen pamsukula cloth here given as new cloth at the temple (in context of funeral). The cremation has taken place before every pamsukula offering I have seen, so I never actually made a connection at all as to why the cloth being offered is really pamsukula as opposed to a normal cloth dana.

(I was honestly super confused as to why it was called that).

—> is this done differently in SL?

I’ve been to one pamsukula offering in Sri Lanka. The newly-bought cloth was placed on the floor (instead of handed over to the monastic directly), so she could “find” it and pick it up.
All other participating monastics (both monks and nuns) were offered new cloth, still in the original packaging, but since they participated in the ceremony, all their cloths were also called pamsukula, and it was considered especially meritorious to make robes from it.
There was no context of a funeral whatsoever.


I’m only familiar with the term in connection with funerals. I guess I would consider it being “symbolic” paṁsakula rather than it having a new meaning.

I wanted to point out a couple of curious changes in usage, not necessarily and strictly from Pali but from Sanskrit as well.

  1. viññāṇa : Nowadays in North Indian languages used almost exclusively for science. More specifically, mano-viññāṇa is used for psychology (even by degree granting institutions).
  2. Sankhaara or the sanskrit sanskaar is now colloquially used in the sense of moral and ethical values (usually considered inherited based on the family). For example, person X does something unwholesome - common judgmental reaction would be “yeah no wonder, they always had bad snaskaar”.

On a separate note: A phrase that strangely has survived 2500 years is “making noise like a fish market…” My mom used that phrase when we were kids and I always found it strange because I knew she could not have been near one, ever (she has extreme aversion to seafood smell). Every time I read that phrase in the suttas, it reminds me of my mom and transports me back to my childhood!