Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit


Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit

Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit (BHS) is a modern linguistic category applied to the language used in a class of Indian Buddhist texts, such as the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. BHS is classified as a Middle Indo-Aryan language. It is sometimes called "Buddhist Sanskrit" or "Mixed Sanskrit."

Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit writings emerged after the fourth century BCE codification of Classical Sanskrit by the scholar Panini. His standardized version of the language that had evolved from the ancient Vedic came to be known as "Sanskrit" (meaning "refined," or "completely formed"). Prior to this, Buddhist teachings are not known to have generally been recorded in the language of the Brahmanical elites. At the time of the Buddha, instruction in it was restricted to members of the twice-born castes. [Hazra, Kanai Lal. "Pāli Language and Literature; a systematic survey and historical study." D.K. Printworld Ltd., New Delhi, 1994, page 12.] While Gautama Buddha was probably familiar with what is now called Sanskrit, he preferred to teach in local languages. At one point he ruled against translating his teachings into Vedic, saying that to do so would be foolish - the language of the Vedas, Vedic was by that time an archaic and obsolete language. [Hazra, page 5.]

After Panini's work, Sanskrit became the pre-eminent language for literature and philosophy in India. Buddhist monks began to adapt the language they used to it, while remaining under the influence of a linguistic tradition stemming from the protocanonical Prakrit of the early oral tradition. [Edgerton, Franklin. "The Prakrit Underlying Buddhistic Hybrid Sanskrit." Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, Vol. 8, No. 2/3, page 503.] While there are widely differing theories regarding the relationship of this language to Pāli, it is certain that Pāli is much closer to this language than Sanskrit is. [Edgerton, Franklin. "The Prakrit Underlying Buddhistic Hybrid Sanskrit." Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, Vol. 8, No. 2/3, page 502. "Pali is itself a middle-Indic dialect, and so resembles the protocanonical Prakrit in phonology and morphology much more closely than Sanskrit."] [Students' Brittanica India, [http://books.google.com/books?id=ISFBJarYX7YC&pg=PA145&dq=history+of+the+pali+language&sig=ACfU3U2P8niEMFn9ME8litgG1xbStvlmLA#PPA145,M1] .] [Hazra, pages 15, 19, 20.] According to K.R. Norman, Pali could also be considered a form of BHS. ["Jagajjyoti", Buddha Jayanti Annual, 1984, page 4, reprinted in K. R. Norman, "Collected Papers", volume III, 1992, Pali Text Society, page 37] However, Franklin Edgerton states that Pali is in essence a Prakrit. [Edgerton, Franklin. "The Prakrit Underlying Buddhistic Hybrid Sanskrit." Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, Vol. 8, No. 2/3, page 503.]

In many places where BHS differs from Sanskrit it is closer to, or identical with, Pāli. However, most extant BHS works were originally written in BHS, rather than being reworkings or translations of already existing works in Pāli or other languages. [Edgerton, Franklin. "The Prakrit Underlying Buddhistic Hybrid Sanskrit." Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, Vol. 8, No. 2/3, page 502.]

The term owes its usage and definition largely to the scholarship of Franklin Edgerton. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit is primarily studied in the modern world in order to study the Buddhist teachings that it records, and to study the development of Indo-Aryan languages. Compared to Pāli and Classical Sanskrit, comparatively little study has been made of Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, in part because of the fewer available writings, and in part because of the view of some scholars that BHS is not distinct enough from Sanskrit to comprise a separate linguistic category. Edgerton writes that a reader of a Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit text "will rarely encounter forms or expressions which are definitely ungrammatical, or at least more ungrammatical than, say, the Sanskrit of the epics, which also violates the strict rules of Pāņini. Yet every paragraph will contain words and turns of expression which, while formally unobjectionable ... would never be used by any non-Buddhist writer." [Edgerton, Franklin. "The Prakrit Underlying Buddhistic Hybrid Sanskrit." Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, Vol. 8, No. 2/3, page 503. Available on JSTOR [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=1356-1898%281936%298%3A2%2F3%3C501%3ATPUBHS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-5&size=LARGE here] .]

Edgerton holds that nearly all Buddhist works in Sanskrit, at least until a late period, belong to a continuous and broadly unitary linguistic tradition. The language of these works is separate from the tradition of Brahmanical Sanskrit, and goes back ultimately to a semi-Sanskritized form of the protocanonical Prakrit. The peculiar Buddhist vocabulary of BHS is evidence that BHS is subordinate to a separate linguistic tradition quite separate from standard Sanskrit (Edgerton finds other indications as well). [Edgerton, Franklin. "The Prakrit Underlying Buddhistic Hybrid Sanskrit." Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, Vol. 8, No. 2/3, pages 503-505.] The Buddhist writers who used standard Brahmanical Sanskrit were small in number. This group seems to have been comprised of converts who received orthodox Brahmanical training in their youth before converting to Buddhism, such as Asvaghosa. [Edgerton, Franklin. "The Prakrit Underlying Buddhistic Hybrid Sanskrit." Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, Vol. 8, No. 2/3, page 503.]

Many Sanskrit words, or particular uses of Sanskrit words, are recorded only from Buddhist works. Pāli shares a large proportion of these words; in Edgerton's view, this seems to prove that most of them belong to the special vocabulary of the protocanonical Buddhist Prakrit. [Edgerton, Franklin. "The Prakrit Underlying Buddhistic Hybrid Sanskrit." Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, Vol. 8, No. 2/3, page 504.]

Parallels

The terms "Buddhist Hybrid Chinese" [Macmillan "Encyclopedia of Buddhism" (Volume One), page 154] and "Buddhist Hybrid English" ["Journal of the Pāli Text Society", Volume XXIX, page 102] have been used to describe peculiar styles of language used in translations of Buddhist texts.

References

Further reading

* Edgerton, Franklin, "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary". ISBN 81-215-1110-0


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