From the Jacket
In Pali is preserved the Buddhist canon. Which, considered as the most authentic form of Buddhavacana, constitutes the very matrix of its 2500-year long Theravada tradition? A Refined widely spoken language of the early Middle Indic stage: about BC 600-200, Pali has also left, for posterity, a splendid legacy of secular literature that captures contemporary socio-cultural milieus not only of India, but of Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the neighbouring countries as well.
Here is, in two volumes a fascinating well knit study of the Pali language, and also of its literature: both canonical and non-canonical. Beginning with a systematic description of the language, its historical evolution, phonology and major grammatical categories, Volume 1 takes an indepth, critical look at the canonical Pali texts- all the three Pitakas the three baskets the Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidhamma, which among other things, embody Sakyamuni's own universal message, the writings of his immediate monastic followers the basic principles of sila the disciplinary codes for the sangha and above all the Theravada philosophy in its truly pristine frame.
Volume 2 surveys nearly the whole variety f on-canonical Pali Literature covering creative writing s, manuals and as many as 25 chronicles: from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand besides numerous commentaries of the old world scholars, like Buddha datta, Buddhaghosa, and Dhammapala. In focus here are also a range of treatises on law, grammar, lexicography, and poetics including rhetoics and metrics.
A painstakingly documented work with a comprehensive index, involving years of Dr. Hazra's Research effort, this book is invaluable to the scholars/ Researchers of Buddhist studies, specially of Theravada Buddhism, Pali Language and Pali Literature.
About the Author
He is one of the better-known scholars of Pali Language, Pali literature and Buddhist studies. And is an equally reputed author. Among his so far published works figure titles, like, history of Theravada Buddhism in South-East Asia; royal Patronage of Buddhism in Ancient India; the Adi Buddha; constitution of te Buddhist Sarigha; and studies on Pali Commentaries.
PALI is a literary language of Buddhists and it grew out of a mixture of dialects like all other literary languages. Pali bears traces of many different Indo-Aryan dialects and has been a speech of the early middle Indo—Aryan period (600 B.C. to 200 B.C). It is all the more confirmed by the use of numerous double forms in the Pali language and spread of Buddhism to different dialectical regions. So it is not a homogeneous language. It is also believed that at the time of Asoka or in the post-Asokan period there was a Buddhist canon resembled Pali closely, but not entirely identical with Pali canon. By tradition, Pali had been closely connected with the local script in Sri Lanka, Burma (now Myanmar) and some Indo—China countries. It can also be said that a close relationship existed between Pali and Vedic since some vocabularies of Sanskrit are similar with Pali vocabulary, but both are independent and developed stages of last Aryan speech. This language is of vernacular character, because of its idioms and colloquial expression, frequency of double forms and the presence of Sandhi.
Since Pali is the accepted language of Buddhism of that time, this language and its various literature can serve as a basic source material for most of the scholars working on this field. It’s rich literature, which is a storehouse of not only ancient history and religion, but also serves the motive of studying social, political, cultural, linguistic, economic and architectural history of by-gone years. The social and cultural milieu of that time in the neighbouring countries, like, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, etc. can also be revealed from its literature. So one can feel the necessity and importance of Pali language in this light.
Despite the growing interest of scholars in Buddhist studies and its language, only a few works have dealt with the Pali language and literature. This work is undoubtedly a systematic historical study of the Pali language and literature, and it brings a connected account of the origin of Pali language and different phases of development of its literature.
For the convenience of the readers, this work is divided into two volumes. The first volume. focusing on history of Pali language and its canonical texts, presents in considerable detail the home land of Pali, its characteristics, the meaning of ’Pali’, significant role played by Pali as vehicle of Buddhism, a true picture of the language and importance of the study of Pali. While delving on Dhamma and Vinaya, this volume also elaborately discusses Sutta Pitaka, Vinaya Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka texts.
Its second volume covers a detailed study about the non-canonical Pali works and literature. Besides dealing comprehensively with various commentaries on the Abhidhamma, it covers other invaluable commentaries by the well—known commentators Buddhadatta, Buddhaghosa and Dhammapala. Also, this volume turns out to be the first ever study to singly explore all the significant Pali Chronicles from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thialand, and other Pali literary pieces, manuals and texts including grammar, lexicons, law, etc.
This work is an elaborate and scientific study about the Pali language and literature which can be regarded as the first of its kind and most complete book on the subject. Although the themes are approached from different sources, yet the descriptions and interpretations discussed here are based on primary sources.
I express deep gratitude to my teacher, Dr. Sukumar Sengupta, Ex—Reader in the Department of Pali, Calcutta University for giving me his invaluable guidance in my work. I must thank Prof. Dillip Kumar Roy of the Department of Museology, Calcutta University, Prof. (Dr.) Mrinal Kanti Ganguly, Department of Sanskrit of Calcutta University and Dr. Dipak Ranjan Das, Department of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Calcutta University, for taking personal interest in my work.
My thanks are also due to my brother Mr. Subodh Kumar Hazra, my niece Mrs. Pratima Haldar and her husband Mr. Pranab Kumar Haldar for their keen interest in the publication of this book.
Last but not the least, I am thankful to the Librarian, Central University Library, Calcutta University, for permitting access to books in this Library.
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