A Note On Language

We don’t want to confuse you, but we’re probably going to confuse you. You’ve all heard the word ‘Dharma’, right? And ‘karma’? ‘Nirvana’? Those are all Sanskrit words. Sanskrit is an ancient language of India, no longer spoken commonly, but still used in religious texts.

Now, some of us more familiar with Buddhism have probably heard the word ‘metta’, right? So, that word is in Pali, also an ancient language of India, also no longer spoken commonly, and also a derivative of Sanskrit. The earliest Buddhist texts are written in Pali, not Sanskrit.

So why are we talking about this? Because when we’re talking about Buddhism, we’re often mixing Pali and Sanskrit terms without realizing that we’re mixing languages. There’s an interesting cultural history that put us into this predicament, but we don’t need to go into that right now.

What’s important is that there may be times when Pali terms are used when we may be accustomed to using the Sanskrit term, or vice versa. We will try our best to avoid this, but if we’re quoting a text, well, there’s not much that can be done about it.

We apologize, ahead of time, for confusing you. Here’s an example cheat sheet, with the Sanskrit word first, the Pali second, and the English last (terms linked to Wiki pages):

  • Dharma – Dhamma – Truth / Doctrine / Teachings
  • Karma – Kamma – Action
  • Nirvana – Nibbana – Extinguishing
  • Maitrī – Metta – Lovingkindness
  • Upeksā – Upekkhā – Equanimity
  • Mudita – Mudita – Sympathetic Joy
  • Karunā – Karunā – Compassion

As time moves on, we plan on adding to our glossary as the need arises.