To all actual and prospective Sanskrit/Pali students at the Golden Buddha Centre:
with James Whelan
I have looked back on the experience of the Sanskrit/Pali classes since we began several months ago. It seems to me that it might be useful to make a formal separation between the two kinds of approach, which have hitherto been mixed together.
The first is the more formal kind of study, going through and analysing a text, which is appropriate for those who wish to acquire the ability to read texts in the original. So far, we have dealt with running texts only in Pali.
The second is more informal and less structured. It deals with individual words and phrases, and is appropriate for those who do not necessarily want to gain a reading knowledge of Sanskrit or Pali, but who wish to have a deeper understanding of the vocabulary of Buddhism in both languages, and the individual concepts expressed through that vocabulary.
We can call these respectively the “text book” approach and the “word clinic” approach.
I am therefore proposing over the coming months to experiment with alternating between the two, week by week. In that way, those who do not wish to engage in the more difficult exercise of acquiring a reading knowledge of Sanskrit or Pali can come only to those classes where we will be following the more easy-going “word-clinic” format.
Everyone will, of course, be more than welcome to come to both.
To give a greater level of structure to the more formal language-learning classes, I propose to use a graded textbook. My choice is ‘Pali Buddhist Texts: An Introductory Reader and Grammar’ by Rune Johansson. You get the formal grammar and vocabulary, but start straight away with short graded passages of genuine canonical Pali text. I will arrange for copies of the relevant pages to be made available to those attending.
Image: Monju Bosatsu with Eight Sacred Sanskrit Syllables, mid to late 14th century Japan. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Monju (Sanskrit: Manjushri), the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, is seated on a lion against an ovoid nimbus edged with flames. He wears a crown decorated with eight miniature Buddhas and holds a sword and a long stemmed lotus flower supporting a vajra. In other manifestations of the bodhisattva, Monju’s lotus typically supports a Buddhist scripture, but here the vajra is an emblem of wisdom.
Monju is surrounded by eight Sanskrit seed syllables, or sacred utterances symbolizing the eight guardian youths (from a mantra invoking him). Inscribed in the upper part of the painting is a verse praising Monju, dated to 1371 on the day following the arrival of winter.
It says, “In the past, you were the bodhisattva Ryūshu, and in the future, you will become the Buddha Fuken, the patriarch of the Seven Buddhas, the mother who gives rise to wisdom [the Buddha], Great Master Monju!”
The painting is said to have belonged to the temple Daigoji near Kyoto.
Click on any photo below to see a larger image.
Categories: Golden Buddha Centre