Sanskrit, Tamil translations

I translate Pali Canonical Suttas to Sanskrit, English & Tamil. For example this sutta I did yesterday (the first sutta from Itivuttaka) which, Sanskrit & Pali, I present interlinearly below to show just how verbatim they are:

P: itivuttaka
S: ityuktakam

P: lobhasutta
S: lobhasūktam

P: vuttañhetaṃ bhagavatā, vuttamarahatāti me sutaṃ –
S: uktaṃ hi etad bhagavatā , uktam arhatā, iti mayā śrutam -

P: "ekadhammaṃ, bhikkhave, pajahatha, ahaṃ vo pāṭibhogo anāgāmitāya.
S: “ekadharmam bhikṣavaḥ prajahita, ahaṃ vaḥ prātibhāvyo 'nāgāmitāyai .

P: katamaṃ ekadhammaṃ?
S: katamam ekadharmaṃ?

P: lobhaṃ, bhikkhave, ekadhammaṃ pajahatha, ahaṃ vo pāṭibhogo anāgāmitāyā"ti.
S: lobham, bhikṣava, ekadharmaṃ prajahita, ahaṃ vaḥ prātibhāvyo 'nāgāmitāyai.” iti

P: etamatthaṃ bhagavā avoca.
S: etam arthaṃ bhagavān avocat .

P: tatthetaṃ iti vuccati –
S: tatra etad api ucyate –

P: "yena lobhena luddhāse, sattā gacchanti duggatiṃ,
S: “yena lobhena lubdhāsaḥ sattvā gacchanti durgatiṃ

P: taṃ lobhaṃ sammadaññāya, pajahanti vipassino,
S: taṃ lobhaṃ samyag ājñāya prajahati vipaścitaḥ

P: pahāya na punāyanti, imaṃ lokaṃ kudācana"nti.
S: prahāya na punar āyānti imaṃ lokaṃ kadācana” iti

P: ayampi attho vutto bhagavatā, iti me sutanti.
S: ayam api artho ukto bhagavatā, iti mayā śrutam iti.

The full sūkta (in Sanskrit translation):

lobha sūktam

uktaṃ hi etad bhagavatā , uktam arhatā, iti mayā śrutam -
“ekadharmam bhikṣavaḥ prajahita, ahaṃ vaḥ prātibhāvyo 'nāgāmitāyai .
katamam ekadharmaṃ?
lobham, bhikṣava, ekadharmaṃ prajahita, ahaṃ vaḥ prātibhāvyo 'nāgāmitāyai.”

etam arthaṃ bhagavān avocat . tatra etad api ucyate -

“yena lobhena lubdhāsaḥ sattvā gacchanti durgatiṃ ।
taṃ lobhaṃ samyag ājñāya prajahati vipaścitaḥ ।
prahāya na punar āyānti imaṃ lokaṃ kadācana” iti ॥

ayam api artho ukto bhagavatā, iti mayā śrutam .

In English Translation

This was said by bhagavān, said by the arhat, so I have heard:
“Abandon one thing, bhikṣus, and I guarantee you non-return.
What one thing? Avarice — bhikṣus, abandon this one thing, and I guarantee you non-return.”

This is what bhagavān said. It’s also said –

“Having become overcome by avarice, beings go to a bad destination,
that avarice the wise, having rightly understood, abandon;
having abandoned it, they don’t return to this world ever again.”

This too was said by bhagavān, so I have heard.

In Tamil Translation:


இது பகவான் புத்தரால், அருஹதரால் சொல்லப்பட்டது என்று கேள்விப்பட்டிருக்கிறேன்.

“துறவிகளே, ஒன்றே ஒன்றை கைவிடுங்கள், விட்டீர்களென்றால் உங்கள்‍ மறுபிறவியின்மைக்கு நான் உறுதியளிப்பேன்.

அந்த ஒன்று எது?

பேராசை, துறவிகளே - அந்த ஒன்றை மட்டும் கைவிடுங்கள், விட்டீர்களென்றால் உங்கள்‍ மறுபிறவியின்மைக்கு நான் உறுதியளிப்பேன்.

பகவான் இதை தான் சொன்னார். மேலும் :

பேராசையால் சிக்கிய மக்கள் கெட்ட கதியை அடைகிறார்கள்.
அந்த பேராசையின் தன்மையை உணர்ந்த அறிவாளி அதை விட்டுவிடுகிறான்.
பேராசையை விட்டவர்களுக்கு மறுபிறவி கிடையவே கிடையாது”

என்பதையும் அந்த பகவான் புத்தர் சொன்னார் - என்று கேள்விப்பட்டிருக்கிறேன்.

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Would you mind translating the following from Dhammapada in to Sanskrit

samitattā hi pāpānaṃ, "samaṇo"ti pavuccati

śāntātmā hi pāpānāṃ śramaṇa ity ucyate

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Thanks. Where do you publish your translations?

Nowhere at the moment, as I was planning to get them published as a book, but if there is interest, I’ll publish them somewhere online as well.


I am more than interested to have a look at your work in case that is possible! We are working on algorithms that can search in Sanskrit sources for passages from the Pali canon, in order to discover the patterns of textual reuse between these two traditions. I am more than interested to see how your translations of this material might be able to support this line of work.

I’ve been translating in fits and starts. Once I complete a complete section from Pali to Sanskrit (for example the whole of itivuttaka to start with), I’ll let you know.

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Just out of curiosity, what is your intention behind translating into a language no one speaks?

That is a popular misunderstanding. Just because it is an ancient language does not mean it is not a modern language, or that it is not a living language (spoken by anybody).

There are quite a lot of people of all walks of life (over a hundred thousand, I think, myself included) who can, and do, speak Sanskrit in daily situations of all sorts, but we are vastly outnumbered by people who don’t understand the language (even within India, there probably is only one Sanskrit speaker for every 10,000 non-Sanskrit speakers, so compared to the world population, it’s probably like 1 in every 50,000 people, not much). People who, while not speaking it, can understand spoken Sanskrit, and study Sanskrit texts, are however probably in the millions.

The numbers have been steadily declining for a very long time, back from the days of the Buddha when virtually all Indo-Aryans were Sanskrit speakers (today, they’re about 1.2 billion people speaking languages derived from Sanskrit, but comparatively very few speak Sanskrit itself). Still the hundred thousand or so that still speak Sanskrit are enough to keep the spoken language going for some more generations.

An interview in 3 parts entirely in Sanskrit:

The current head of the Advaita Hindu monastery of Sringeri, gives a Dharma talk in Sanskrit.

Prof. Ashok Aklujkar gives a lecture about Indian history for 1.5 hours in Sanskrit.

Lecture about Sanskrit love-poetry in Sanskrit:

Lecture about Sanskrit epic-poetry in Sanskrit:

A philosophical debate (vākyārtha) in Sanskrit by Brahmins:

A lesson on the study of logic taught in Sanskrit:

A conversation in Sanskrit:

Another conversation in Sanskrit:

A lecture in Sanskrit in the University of California, Berkeley to Prof. Robert Goldman & the other academics in the Sanskrit faculty present there:

This channel contains about 1500 recordings of about an hour each on average, spoken in only Sanskrit, explaining advanced Sanskrit grammar for Sanskrit speakers.

Besides, everyday there are news-broadcasts and other programmes in Sanskrit in some Indian TV channels, for example see this Sanskrit news broadcast from two days ago (among thousands of other spoken-Sanskrit videos in the same Youtube channel):

So Sanskrit is alive as a spoken language (though greatly enfeebled in terms of number of speakers compared to even a century ago). Every century the numbers of speakers keep falling as a % of world population. But even the hundred-thousand who do speak Sanskrit are vastly more than speakers of similarly ancient languages such as Ancient Greek, Old-Latin etc. Of these 100000, probably a few thousands call themselves native speakers, as they’ve been speaking Sanskrit as a mother-tongue i.e. since they began speaking as a baby.

Thanks. Is there a name for the specific type of Sanskrit people speak and you are translating into? Vedic Sanskrit? Classical Sanskrit?

Thanks for your post. I am interested in learning Sanskrit, and eventually mastering Panini. Are there any tips you can provide? What are good books to start with?

BTW I am not interested in watching YouTube videos. I find them tedious.

PS - I am interested in your translations, if and when you choose to publish them. I think there is merit in translating from Pali to Sanskrit - in terms of conveying Buddha’s teachings in a more structured, formal and regular language. I am particularly interested in your claim that it is almost a 1:1 translation. How are you dealing with Dravidian words?

Most people these days speak modern sanskrit (in general a simpler version of Classical Sanskrit), but some can speak the proper classical sanskrit as well (almost all the videos I’ve posted above are proper classical sanskrit). Classical Sanskrit (of the Buddha’s time) is itself a grammatically simpler/younger version of Vedic. Even within Vedic Sanskrit, there is Old-Vedic, Middle-Vedic and Late-Vedic. Late Vedic is very similar or nearly-identical to classical Sanskrit. Vedic however today (i.e. the forms of sanskrit that are older than classical Sanskrit) is not a spoken language, it only exists in the Vedic hymns that are commonly chanted at Vedic/Hindu religious and social occasions.

I translate into Classical Sanskrit for the most part (as the language underlying Pali is mostly classical Sanskrit), but where I find an underlying Vedic word in the original Pali, I try to translate that word into Vedic Sanskrit. You can see one such word (Vedic “lubdhāsaḥ”, corresponding to the Old-Pali “luddhāse”) within the verse in the first post above - which would be lubdhāḥ in classical sanskrit (corresponding to “luddhā” in younger/prose pali)

“Mastering” Pāṇini is only possible for Sanskrit speakers, as the grammar goes extremely intricate into the roots of the spoken language. The grammar was built by and meant only for the use of sanskrit speakers. Once you learn to speak the language, you can get to a teacher to teach you the Aṣṭādhyāyī (and the best teachers of it only use Sanskrit medium instruction, because that leads to minimal distortions in understanding).

Although it is possible to learn it in English or another modern language, you will probably feel like you’ve entered a maze where you dont understand head or tail of what is being spoken about, thereby your mastery may get significantly prolonged as a result. You can get acquainted with the grammar in English (there are several english translations), but mastery will probably be very difficult using just English (or any other modern language).

So my suggestion is you start with attending a spoken sanskrit course and get to the stage where you can hold conversations in Sanskrit, while simultaneously studying the grammar. Books will help to a certain extent but studying Sanskrit is not like studying Pali, particularly where you want to master the language rather than just be acquainted with its grammar.

But if you come to the stage of studying Paninian grammar in Sanskrit medium, you will probably understand most Pali even without formally studying Pali. That is my personal experience.

In my understanding it was the Buddha’s native language.

You can see how word-for-word it is faithful above in the first post (translation of Iti1) - there is practically no loss either semantically or grammatically the way I translate it. I have not found many dravidian words in the Pali, perhaps Dravidian-origin words are like 1 in every 1000 words in the Pali dictionary, and most Dravidian words are in the commentaries not in the Canon. I should know for my mother tongue is Tamil (a very prominent Dravidian language), and the difference between them is usually quite clear to someone who speaks both languages.


Where could we learn more about the upper robes some of the monastics and brahmins are wearing, especially the ochre ones? Is there a name for the ochre upper robe? Or a place showing different styles of wearing it? I’m interested in the connection between Indian sramana-brahmana clothing, and obviously the ochre robe is the color of the Buddhist bhikkhu robe.

I’m also curious if there’s an Indian precedent for the modern way many Buddhist monks wear the robe over both shoulders, where it is rolled and tucked under the arm pit. It seems this was not how it was originally worn and I haven’t seen non-Buddhists using the robe in this way.

Thanks, just to clarify. I was referring to a wish to read and understand Panini in Sanskrit. I am not interested in reading a translation. I am particularly interested in whether it is possible to render Panini rules into transformative-generative grammar. I have done a rudimentary attempt at expressing Pali grammar in EBNF, I am interested in doing something similar for Sanskrit. Doing so will help me understanding the relationships between the two languages.

I am currently translating Kaccayana to English, and I know less than 50% of Kaccayana are derived from Panini, so I am interested in understanding more of Panini. I understand some of Panini’s metarules are actually applicable to Pali but haven’t been included in Kaccayana.

I am probably less interested in being able to speak Sanskrit, only to read it, and probably only to the extent of being able to read the Mahabharata and Ramayana (I’ve read the former in English), and possibly being able to understand Vedic Sanskrit, so that I can read the Rg Veda (sorry for not including the diacritics - I am currently typing on a keyboard without the ability to include these).

Anyway, thanks for your advice.

I dont know much about clothing styles, but those Hindus who wear ochre robes are Sannyāsis i.e. renunciate monks (and they can be from any Indian philosophical tradition), it is sort of a pan-Indic attire.

In Hinduism the attire of renunciates is called kāṣāya-vastra in sanskrit (corresponding to kāsāva-vattha/kāsāya-vattha in pāli), but for generic ancient Indian clothing (not of monks) see Uttariya - Wikipedia, Antariya - Wikipedia & Adivasah - Wikipedia

Yes that is exactly what practically everyone studying is taught in the Paninian grammar classes.To master the transformative word-generation using the rules is the whole objective. They are taught (in Sanskrit medium) what the rules mean, why they mean what they mean, how they cannot mean something else, which rules influence which other rules, which rules supercede which other ones, which rules are exceptions, how to apply them step by step to validate if a sanskrit word is grammatically correct etc. It works like a modern programming language. But to get “mastery” of this grammar is virtually impossible without speaking and understanding the spoken language.

You can however gain a basic aquaintance of how the Paninian generative grammar works without learning to speak the language, but to actually test it hands-on you need to be able to read and dynamically interpret the grammar embedded in the rules like a native Sanskrit speaker would, and it is written in Sanskrit. So without speaking (or understand it being explained word by word what everything means) it, you may not understand it fully as your mind will always keep trying to translate what you read, and as soon as you translate the meanings get distorted and you end up with misunderstandings.

How the generative grammar works:
For example starting with the verb root bhū, assuming you want to generate the third person singular aorist verb form abhūt, you apply the following rules (shown in square brackets below) one by one systematically

√bhū sattāyām
→ bhū [ bhūvādayo dhātavaḥ 1.3.1]
→ bhū + luṅ [ luṅ 3.2.110]
→ bhū + luṅ [ upadeśe’janunāsika it 1.3.2]
→ bhū + luṅ [ halantyam 1.3.3]
→ bhū + l [ tasya lopaḥ 1.3.9]
→ bhū + l [ śeṣāt kartari parasmaipadam 1.3.78]
→ bhū + tip [ tiptasjhisipthasthamibvasmas tātāṃjhathāsāthāṃdhvamiḍvahimahiṅ 3.4.78]
→ bhū + tip [ halantyam 1.3.3]
→ bhū + ti [ tasya lopaḥ 1.3.9]
→ bhū + ti [ tiṅśitsārvadhātukam 3.4.113]
→ bhū + clim̐ + ti [ cli luṅi 3.1.43]
→ bhū + sim̐c + ti [ cleḥ sic 3.1.44]
→ bhū + ti [ gātisthāghupābhūbhyaḥ sicaḥ parasmaipadeṣu 2.4.77]
→ bhū + t [ itaśca 3.4.100]
→ aṭ + bhū + t [ luṅlaṅlṛṅkṣvaḍudāttaḥ 6.4.71]
→ aṭ + bhū + t [ halantyam 1.3.3]
→ a + bhū + t [ tasya lopaḥ 1.3.9]
→ a + bhū + vum̐k + t [ bhuvo vugluṅliṭoḥ 6.4.88]
→ a + bhū + vum̐k + t [ upadeśe’janunāsika it 1.3.2]
→ a + bhū + vum̐k + t [ halantyam 1.3.3]
→ a + bhū + v + t [ tasya lopaḥ 1.3.9]
→ a + bhū + t [ lopo vyorvali 6.1.66]
→ a + bhū + t [ suptiṅantaṃ padam 1.4.14]
→ a + bhū + d [ jhalāṃ jaśo’nte 8.2.39]
→ a + bhū + t [ vā’vasāne 8.4.56]
→ a + bhū + t [ a a 8.4.68]
→ abhūt

When someone calls themselves a “master” of Paninian grammar, they would know most of these rules, and are able to apply them on the fly to show how any word in Sanskrit is grammatically generated using Paninian apparatus (without referring to a book). I have never seen a Panini expert who can’t speak Sanskrit.

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Thanks for this. This is very similar to Kaccayana’s rules, which I am reasonably familiar with, although I must admit I seldom see an example as complicated as the ones you have mentioned. Most of the vibhatti rules in Kaccayana only takes 3-4 steps, and a further few if we are talking about derivative nouns.

If you look at my translation of Kaccayana for example, I list the steps for each example provided by Kaccayana. Some of them have been difficult to derive, and I am sure there will be similar issues for Panini.

There are similar rules for English as well, see for example the ANLT grammar which covers a fairly comprehensive subset of English:

Although English is more an analytic language compared to Sanskrit or Pali, it is possible to articulate the production rules. However, I think it will be impossible to completely describe all features of the language, as it has been recently proven that English cannot be completely described using a context free grammar.

It will be interesting to see if Sanskrit grammar is context free or not. My suspicion is that it isn’t, despite the 4000 rules in Panini.

There has been several documented issues with Kaccayana, that applying some of the rules create word forms that have never been encountered in any text, and that some of the rules generate errorneous words.

Although there are dozens of modern books you can use, I have found these books good enough to be able to start reading normal texts -

For Paninian grammar after you finish the above, I’d suggest this translation to start with:

If that is the case, you wont need to necessarily master Panini, you can academically study classical Sanskrit using the above books (assuming you are in Australia, I’d suggest you speak with Prof. McComas Taylor and explain your objectives to him - he has study groups there and should be able to guide you ably). Prof. Rama Nath Sharma’s translation of the Aṣṭādhyāyī (see above) should give you the tools you need to understand it to the point of being able to compare individual sutras between Pāṇinian tradition (Pāṇini himself and his most highly regarded early commentators and interpreters Kātyāyana and Patañjali) & Kaccāyana. Once you are familiar with the Devanagari script and Sanskrit-medium sources, you can start reading the descriptions in Sanskrit (from commentarial and other sources) for each rule at Ashtadhyayi

The possibility of Pāṇini’s grammar generating erroneous words is an area of research that is as old as Pāṇini himself - but it is not such a major concern as over a 100 generations of grammarians have since been testing his rules - and although certain rules (particularly the uṇādi rules of Śākaṭāyana, which are studied together with Pāṇini’s rules, see below) are not universally applicable unlike Pāṇini, there have been no major issues as to topple the usefulness of Pāṇini’s work in describing the vast majority of words attested in Vedic and classical sources.

Nearly all Sanskrit verb-forms and participles (nouns derived from verbs) have already been generatively accounted for, as are 99% of the nouns - so you dont have to take the trouble of redoing what’s already done. As in any natural language, usage doesn’t always conform to the grammar, the grammar of Panini is intended to explain the ‘standard’ usage - but occasionally one finds non-standard words in literature - and the grammatical tradition then clarifies whether such words are “sādhu prayoga” (valid despite not being accounted for in the Paninian tradition) or “asādhu prayoga” (grammatically invalid or incorrect usages owing to not knowing the language well enough). Worth stressing though, that Panini’s grammar was initially descriptive not prescriptive, it defers to actual usage (i.e. the usage of people who know and speak it flawlessly) and doesn’t claim to have the authority to overrule actual usage. So Panini didnt aim to be 100% comprehensive, he aims for about 99% comprehensiveness. For some of the noun/participle derivations, Panini uses the work of an earlier Vedic grammarian called Śākaṭāyana who composed hundreds of other rules to account for other Vedic-origin words (these rules work complementary to Panini’s own rules so together they explain the words that Panini alone wouldn’t be able to account for). In all other cases, Panini’s grammar accounts for 99% of classical usage and I think most Vedic usages - his grammar is meant not just for classical sanskrit but for Vedic included.

In my understanding Panini’s generative model due to its thoroughness is vastly more comprehensive than Kaccāyana’s derivations, but given that Sanskrit is much more complex than canonical Pali, and being a natural language with a historical spoken and literary tradition that is 100s of times bigger than Pali, it would be impossible to be 100.00% comprehensive. 99% comprehensiveness is awesome enough. In Prof. Leonard Bloomfield’s opinion “The descriptive grammar of Sanskrit, which Pāṇini brought to its perfection, is one of the greatest monuments of human intelligence and an indispensable model for the description of languages.”

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Thanks for your detailed response. Much appreciated!

And much thanks for your insights. And you are right - I don’t actually need to master Panini or rewrite the rules, but I am interested in comparing say EBNF forms of Pali and Sanskrit, and even then I don’t need to model entire languages, just rudimentary subsets will do. Mahesh Deokar has already done a lot of the groundwork by comparing terminology across Pali and Sanskrit grammars. I probably could infer an EBNF derivation of Sanskrit just from his work (and others) but I don’t want to be presumptuous and feel I need to acquire a working knowledge of Sanskrit grammar first.

I was exposed to a bit of Sanskrit in Mark Allon’s Gandhari reading course which compared various texts across Pali, Sanskrit and Ghandhari versions, and I did note the Sanskrit version appears very similar to Pali, with an almost 1:1 correspondence (apart from metrical issues, which sometimes causes words to be rearranged or substituted). That’s what gave me the idea that perhaps I should learn Sanskrit. So your work will be very interesting for me.

Gāndhārī texts also can have a similar 1:1 correspondence with Sanskrit, not just Pāli - but Gandhari sources may use words that have been changed to other words in Pali (or vice versa).

For example my Standard Sanskrit translation (first verse in Pali dhammapada):

manaḥpūrvaṅgamā dharmā manaḥśreṣṭhā manojavāḥ .
manasā cet praduṣṭena bhāṣate vā karoti vā .
tato nūnaṃ duḥkham anveti cakram (i)va vahataḥ padam

Gāndhārī :
maṇopuvagama dhama maṇośeṭha maṇojava
maṇasa hi praduṭheṇa bhaṣadi va karodi va
tado ṇa duhu amedi cako va vahaṇe pathi

Pali :
manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā,
manasā ce paduṭṭhena bhāsati vā karoti vā,
tato naṁ dukkham anveti cakkaṁ va vahato padaṁ.

The so called “Patna” dharmapada:
manopūrvvaṁgamā dhammā manośreṣṭhā manojavā |
manasā ca praduṣṭena bhāṣate vā karoti vā |
tato naṁ dukham anneti cakram vā vahato padaṁ ||

As you can see except the word (in Sanskrit manojavāḥ) in Gāndhārī, which in the Pāli version instead corresponds to the Skt. word manomayāḥ , and the ‘cet’ vs ‘hi’ in the second line which is again a choice of vocabulary - the rest are word for word similar. So Sanskrit word-forms can at once provide the etymological and grammatical clarity (due to Paninian transparency) to explain both Pali as well as to Gandhari as well as the language of the “Patna” dharmapada (no need to mention BHS as well). So having a Standard Sanskrit version that corresponds word by word to the the Pali canon can explain not just knotty points of Pali interpretation & etymology, but also Gandhari /BHS interpretations and word choices.

Also as you can see, where the spellings differ between Gandhari and Pali, in some cases, the Gandhari uses the more sanskritic spellings, and in other cases the Pali uses the more sanskritic spellings. BHS versions are closer to standard Sanskrit than both Gandhari & Pali.

I’ve only finished upto Chapter 5 of the Dharmapada Pali to Sanskrit translation so it is a work in progress.

I don’t claim to understand Pali or Sanskrit perfectly, so might make occasional misinterpretations, or fail to recognize underlying Vedic word-forms in the Pali verses due to my lack of thorough knowledge of Vedic, but if I (or anyone else) manages to translate a sizeable amount of Pali with 1:1 fidelity to Sanskrit, I believe it will greatly further the understanding of early-Buddhism, Sanskrit research as well as Pali and Gandhari research.

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