Shakyamuni Buddha's Language

It is very unlikely. The term, Chanda, being used in that context, refers to a particular type of the Sanskrit language at that time.

The essential teaching here is “sakāya niruttiyā” (based on your own language) for the Buddha’s teachings “Buddhavacana”. No any language, including Pali, should be regarded as an absolute Buddhavacana.

This understanding is very important for the studies in EBTs, or Early Buddhism.


It’s not banning all Sanskrit language, just for it’s technical prosody form, which is only learned by the brahmanas, I think. So, later Buddhism can use Sanskrit for their canonical texts.

I absolutely agree with this


Thanks for the cool example! I didn’t know this was quoted by the Jains.

However I don’t think it makes the case very well. It’s not exactly the same canonical passage, but a couple of lines that share much in common in Buddhist and Jaina sources. And the Jaina source is a modern one, which (so far as I can guess) doesn’t follow the “conservative” principle that I alluded to above. The point remains, reading the same canonical passage in the two languages would be trivial for native speakers to understand.

Nevertheless, leaving aside a couple of changed words, the Ardhamagadhi remains not dissimilar to the Pali. I mean, I know nothing of Ardhamagadhi, but at a glance I would immediately recognize the opening line. The phonetic changes all seem obvious (y --> j, k --> g), with the sole exception of atta --> appa which seems weird.


It’s not weird if you think of it in terms of Hindi aapa, “oneself”, or Sinhalese “api” (we)…I think some dialects have apta instead of more familiar Skt aatmaa/aatman, via a fairly predictable w/m shift (ok…maybe more like a m/p/b/v labial thinggo). The main change in AM that I was referring to is the dropping of certain consonants e.g. in jao for jayo (?), which I don’t think is typical of the epigraphic prakrit (although I would happily be proven wrong). Why wouldn’t the administrative language of King Ashoka be closer to the language of Patna than Magadhan? Is there something I have missed?


Ahh yes, that makes sense, tm --> pp seems sane.

Yeah, I’m beyond my depth here. Apart from the obvious, that Magadhi seems less Sanskritic than Pali and more colloquial. Which could mean either that it is younger, or that Pali has been formalized under Sanskrit influence, or … well I guess there could be lots of reasons!



As a matter of trivia, the m/w shift with aatmaa also gives us English prefix auto- via Greek autos, as in automatic.

Another reason could be that like Sauraseni, Pali had its origins in the same linguistic saladbowl as Sanskrit in the Aryavarta region, rather than that Pali has undergone Sanskritic influence per se…


You can find “anatva” in Gāndhārī: savi dhama aṇatva di


a new possibility may arise also to interpret the language: Mahavira first followers were mostly from poor areas and less educated, more low-cast based than even Buddha’s First followers (where we see lay followers and monks are from more versatile backgrounds, extending from poor to rich kings, low castes to Upper-caste brahmins). that will contribute to make ardhamagadhi seem like younger, more away from sanskrit, considering it was conserved and transported among generations by low-castes using their “slang” dialect. specially since that Jainism didn’t found Kingly-support (in contrast to Ashoka support in Buddhism).

Not quite.
On the contrary, In the Jain texts, the Jains consider Bimbisara and his son Ajatasatru (Both mentioned in Buddhist texts as contemporary to the Buddha) to be an admirers/ followers of their religion. The chief disciples ( ganadaras) of Mahavira( founder of Jainism) were Brahmins. Mahavira himself was a Kshatriya( aristocratic or princely caste) like Gotama Buddha.

Ashoka’s grandfather, Chandragupta, who laid the foundations of the Mauryan empire, converted to Jainism in his ‘retirement’ and became a Jain monk. Ashoka’s grandson Samprati was also a Jain follower and supported its spread in India and even outside lands.

So One can easily deduce that the Jains did get royal support even at the time of the Buddha and even later on.


Indeed. Maybe the key difference is that the extreme austerity and frugality of monastic lifestyle in Jainism did not leave much room for royal support to translate into significant legacies in the form of an institutionalized religion.
It is nevertheless noteworthy that in India one still fins some significant structures associated with Jainism. But these tend to pertain to the more devotional and ritual-based forms of Jainism (i.e. veneration of past tirthankaras, etc) practiced/followed by the Jain laity (mostly the murtipujakas among Svetambaras).

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Indeed, and I can’t recall the details, but Ashoka was an even-handed supporter of different paths, and there are records of him making offerings to, IIRC, Ajivakas and maybe Jains too.

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From the rock edicts of King Ashoka
Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, honors both ascetics and the householders of all religions, and he honors them with gifts and honors of various kinds.[22] But Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, does not value gifts and honors as much as he values this – that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions.[23] Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one’s own religion, or condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honor other religions for this reason. By so doing, one’s own religion benefits, and so do other religions, while doing otherwise harms one’s own religion and the religions of others. Whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought “Let me glorify my own religion,” only harms his own religion. Therefore contact (between religions) is good.[24] One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, desires that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions.

Those who are content with their own religion should be told this: Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, does not value gifts and honors as much as he values that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions. And to this end many are working – Dhamma Mahamatras, Mahamatras in charge of the women’s quarters, officers in charge of outlying areas, and other such officers. And the fruit of this is that one’s own religion grows and the Dhamma is illuminated also.


I don’t recall any mention in the EBT’s of the Buddha or his disciples having difficulties with a language barrier, or any mention of translators. And that despite them having traveled widely. Assuming I haven’t missed such references, that in itself suggests that any differences in language would be more akin to dialect variations than to what we would think of as separate languages.


quite interesting information, Sir.
does the Buddhist texts also mention them as Jains?

Yes, i know that mahavira is from Kshatriya caste, his chief disciples are brahmins, i used the words “more low-caste based than buddhism”. my idea was likely to be in accord with what Sir Gabriel_L wrote.

It’s quite an interesting information to know that:
Ashoka’s Grandfather is Jain
Ashoka in the Middle is Buddhist
Ashoka’s Grandson is Jain.

maybe because of this information and other information which make a crossover between Buddhism and Jainism (Like what Ven. Sujato mentioned at the beginnings of his Authenticity book), some had made a connection between the 2 dhammas, Making various proposals: that there was a pre-(jain-buddhist) dhamma which connects both of them, or that one of them had copied from another, or buddha was a jain for the 6 years before enlightment…etc

surely there is a connection between the two Dhammas. but the nature of this connection and it’s origins hadn’t been studied a lot.

Ven Sir, Sujato. in your Authenticity book, the edict-pillars of Ashoka translations. both Jains and Ajivakas are mentioned, as religions which people are allowed to follow without any harm.

I don’t think if Shakyamuni Buddha was alive, will love this act from the Buddhist-monarch Ashoka. :smiley: specially if the Twin miracle of the Buddha against Mahavira (in some traditions) was a known fact at his time.

Nope AFAIK. This is a common trend. The Jain version of history also counts King Ashoka as a convert to Jainism instead of Buddhism and says that he spread Jainism throughout the lands and that the pillars are Jaina pillars, not Buddhist, etc.

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Something that I was ruminating upon – notice “savi” in the Gandhari example above this. This is, of course, sabba/sarva. However, it is somewhat more normal to see “saba/sava” than “sabba” in Middle Indic Prakrits. I will explain in a moment, and others can correct me if they feel my opinion is poorly-informed. I am not an expert in Middle Indic Prakrits. I do however have some rudimentary training in linguistics.

We have a Vedic “sarva” preserved in later Classical Sanskrit as “sarva.” We see “sabba” in Pali, and we can imagine that the “b” is a product of the “v” becoming a plosive. But there is something more to this.

Pali is such a conservative Prakrit, it is holding onto a phonetic timing unit that it no longer has, namely “rv.” A “timing unit” refers to the time it takes to say a series of sounds. “Rv” as a consonant cluster takes longer to say than “v” or “b.” The B is geminated (b to bb) so that the timing unit of “rv” is preserved and consequently it takes longer to say the b. Knowing “sarva,” we can speculate that the Gandhari “savi” was pronounced closer to “savvi” or “sawwi,” but this is ultimately speculative.

The retention of the timing unit of the lost consonant cluster (the Pali “accent” systematically reduces almost all large consonant clusters) is the same reason Pali has “dhamma” instead of the Gandhari “dhama.” It is preserving the timing unit of “rm” from “dharma.” There are countless examples of this in Pali.

Just another way in which Pali preserves old linguistic details that many other contemporaneous Prakrits lose. All of this gets even more interesting when we factor in that Pali is not a direct descendent of Vedic, but instead is derived from some minority para-Vedic dialect that was similar but not identical to mainstream Vedic Sanskrit.

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In his comparative dictionary of Indo-Aryan languages, Turner says that the historical development of sarva is abnormal. Turner says,“ʻ Abnormal ʼ phonet. development in a pronom. word: h – for s – and – b – for – bb – in L. P., – a – for – ā – in N. &c” .A Comparative Dictionary of Indo-Aryan Languages

There are quite a number of languages that have a sarva variant with no r and no apparent compensation for the loss of an r, which makes me suspicious that it’s not just a feature of written Gandhari orthography. It’s mysterious, thank you for pointing this out.


but we know surely from some pillars translations that Ashoka was Buddhist. History came in accord with the Buddhist version in that way -i think-.
this may put question mark on the Jain version speaking about these 3 kings as Jain converts

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Certainly studying Jainism is fundamental to Early Buddhism for the simple reason that a) it is another śramaṇa religion and b) it is an older religion.

However, an older religion does not older texts produce necessarily. Jaina texts are quite later. Imagine if we only had Mahāyāna Buddhist scriptures and Vaipulyas only of Śrāvaka Ābhidharmika and EBT materials – no Pāli Canon nor Āgamas in relatively unadulterated unexpanded (avaipulya?) form.


Your comment is Really Appreciated, Sir. Thanks.