Viveka meaning in Pali & Sanskrit

Hi Pali experts ,

According to SC Pali dictionary definitions of viveka refers to detachment, loneliness, separation, seclusion . However , in Sanskrit viveka means discrimination, judgement, discernment or the faculty of distinguishing and classifying things according to their real properties.

Why the differences ? Thanks

Two different languages.

That’s an interesting question
While we should not assume meanings are the same across Sanskrit and prakrits such as Pali, the difference in meaning does indeed warrant some explanation!
Maybe bhante @sujato may have some thoughts to share?


Hi Vijja,

I am not sure of ‘why’ there is the difference… But I can attempt answering ‘how’ there is a difference, in case you find that useful.

‘Viveka’ comes from the sanskrit root ‘vic’ meaning ‘to divide/separate’.
This evolved into two kinds of meaning for the term ‘viveka’ - one is more literal and the other metaphorical/extended usage;

In Pali, it took on the meaning ‘to keep aloof/be detached’ which is a more literal sense of the root. And we know from Sutta passages like those referring to Jhana that this is the primary meaning in Pali;
Eg: ‘vicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi’ - ‘detached from desires, detached from unwholesome dhammas’.

In Sanskrit, it primarily refers to discrimination - distinguishing between things; In Vedanta specifically, it refers to discriminating between the impermanent world and the permanent soul/brahman.

So for some reason, Pali took on a more literal shade of meaning whereas Sanskrit usage took on the more metaphorical sense.


Hi , :grin: was assuming its usage in both languages closely related . Thanks .

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