The term "Pali" denotes a set of sacred texts of the Buddhists. The nature of literature in Pali language is basically religious and philosophical. Pali literature has a rich collection of Buddhist texts and scriptures. The basic and the most important part of the teachings of Buddha is called as "Tipitika". It is said that most of the original teachings of Buddha are contained in Tipitika. Still some people insist that Pali Tipitika has the original teachings of Buddha. Read on further to know more about Pali language literature. The 2500-year-old Theravada tradition is carefully preserved in Pali. It is famously known as "Buddhavachana", which means words of Buddha. It is said that the most genuine form of the teachings of Buddha are preserved in Pali literature and that it was known as Magadhi. To know more about Plai literature, continue to read this insightful article on it.
History Of Pali Literature
Pali literature claimed to be an actual speech of Buddha. The very foundation of Buddhism is contained in these texts and the society takes maximum pains to make sure that they are carefully preserved. Pali signifies the very tenet of Buddhism.
Pali is a very refined and pure language that was spoken during the early years of 600-200 B.C. This was the time period of the Indo-Aryan era in the continent. It was widely spoken by people not only in India but in neighboring countries as well. Though it is not spoken in the contemporary world, it has left behind a rich heritage of literature that is relevant to the socio-cultural environment of not only India, but also countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka and other neighboring countries.
Use Of Pali Language In Buddhist Canons
The actual historical development of Pali Tipitika has not been well investigated as yet. Although, it is a known fact that Tipitika was put together in different councils. There are factual proofs that Theravada Tipitika was compiled in the council of King Vattagamani Abhaya from the 1st century B.C. It was in this council, known as the 4th council that the Pali Tipitika was formally written down because until now it was only handed down from generation to generation orally. After the demise of the Buddha, the 1st council took place immediately. It happened in the Saptaparni cave near Rajgriha. Mahakassapathera took its chairmanship. This was a grand council and over 500 disciples took place in it, including Upali and Ananda. These disciples recited the teachings of Buddha, as they heard from him. It is through this recitation that the Buddhist discourses and monastic rules were set. This grand recitation marked the beginning of the tipitika. It did not only begin for the Theravada school but for all the other Buddhist schools. It is documented in the history and been written by Hiuen Tsang that after one hundred and ten years of the 1st council, the second council took place. It took place in Valukarama in Vaishali. Here, around seven hundred Bikhshus took participation in the council. It is said that this convention took place to pacify the discrepancies in the earlier construal of the monastic rules. These reconstructed teachings were not written down even in 3rd century B.C.in the 2nd council. In 3rd century B.C., during Emperor Ashoka’s reign, Buddhism went through a harsh division and ended up being divided into many different sects. Ashoka himself was a rigorous and devoted follower and leader of the Theravada school. He called on a council to finally settle down the tipitika according to the school he belonged to, that is the Theravad School. He sent off his son Mahindathera and daughter Sanghamitta to Sri lanka in order to spread the newly reformed Tipitika in that country, Orally. It is not known as to what language did this Tipitika was carried out in. It is presumed that it must have been some form of Praktit language but it is for certain that by this time Pali was not used in the Tipitika oral tradition.
Pali is divided into two different divisions; one of the divisions consists of these three pitakas and the other division consists of canonical texts other than these thre pitakas. Pali canonical division consists of nine parts or limbs or ‘angas’: Sutta ––prose like teachings and sermons of Buddha, Geyya –– musical and prose like sermons, Veyyakarana –– elucidations, Gatha –– teachings in the form of verses, Udana –– blissful remarks of Buddha, Itivuttaker –– concise quotes, Jatakas –– tales about the reincarnations of Buddha, Abbhuta Dhamma ––narrative of mystical powers of Buddha and Vedalla ––questions and answers solving life and spiritual queries.
Tipitika consists of Vinayapitaka, Suttapitaka and Abhidhammapitaka. These are the different parts of Buddha’s teachings. There were two major chronicles that got compiled in Sri Lanka during the period when Asoka’s children were spreading the teachings of Buddha in that country, these were Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa. Dipavamsa gives a description of the time when Buddha stayed in Sri Lanka. And Mahavasa is a decorative prose on Buddha and his teachings.