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梵 文課
Sanskrit Lessons

比丘尼釋恆賢 文 by Bhikshuni Heng Hsien

〔編按:本梵文課英文原載於金剛菩提海月刊,由1972 年12月第21期開始刊登。〕


這一期的標題是 Saṃskṛtam 以英文字母拼成之梵文,意思是梵文。 Saṃskṛtam 字分二個部分。Saṃ-本身不是一個字但有合併或完全的意思 kṛtam 意思是製造或完成。所以 Saṃskṛtam 可有二種意思:



一)它是編造的或人工的。與印度另一種語言 Prākṛtam 它的意思是「自然」正相反。

雖然梵文是古印度的古典文言,但是當時人在日常生活上也用其他的語言,而這些語言依他們的居所和階級而有所不 同。起初梵文的使用並不廣泛。到了像法時期,常有博學的佛教教士和外道哲士們互相辯論,於是那時梵文成為文字和思想溝通上的標準語言。

當我們以「編造」或「人工的」來解釋梵文,是因為梵文的音和形經常改變。文法家將這種改變編成一種非常嚴格的 規則。而梵文的說和寫都是很澈底地遵守這原則,不可改變,所以被解釋為「人工的」,不同於其他較通用的語言名為「自然的」。

梵文是屬於印歐語系,與西方語言如希臘、拉丁文、俄、法、英等都很有關係的。所以梵文和英文是屬於同一語系, 有如中文與日文、韓文屬同一語系。

但如果你仔細研究一下梵文,會發現其語言文字來自許多印度方言和其他通用語言,所以我們也可以說它是合併一起 的,或編造的。因為它名為 Saṃskṛtam 和語言 Prākṛtam 意為「自然的」或「原來的」相反。Prā- 意思為起初;kṛtam 如上解釋為完成或造成【注】。所以 Prākṛtam 也可說它是梵文的原始材料。

Prākṛtam 是當時人在日常生活上所使用的多種通用方言,也是佛陀和他的弟子們所使用的。而且佛陀特別指示比丘們,不可將他們的教導固定於一種優雅的文言文,或者一種 念誦方式,而要用一般人使用的語言來教化他們。後來梵文也受到廣泛地使用而成為通用的語言之一。

巴利文是錫蘭佛教徒為小乘教記錄佛陀的教導而寫的。它是 Prākrit 中很古老的語言。當他們寫下佛陀的教化時,Prakrit 就被改成文字語言。梵文也有記錄屬小乘教的教導,並也記錄大乘的經及論--是小乘所沒有的。

Saṃskṛtam 的第二個意思是完成或圓滿。古印度人對語言的歷史發展並不特別感到興趣。對他們來說,梵文是由天神所賜與的,絲毫沒改,所以它是圓滿的語言。事實上他們認 為說其他語言的人是在試著說梵文,只是說出來有一點不同,所以與其他語言比較,梵文怎可說它是不夠圓滿呢?你想學梵文嗎?

注:Prākṛtam 因有ā字故為引生字。關連字 prakṛti 意為「自然」或「本體」。

[Editor's Note: The English part of this lesson was originally published in Issue 21, December 1972, of Vajra Bodhi Sea.]

VBS is pleased to publish the first in a new series lessons in Sanskrit based on Buddhist texts.

Saṃskṛtam: This is the title (above) written in the English alphabet and also the Sanskrit name for the Sanskrit language. The word Saṃskṛtam falls into two parts: saṃ- and kṛtam. Saṃ- is not a word on its own but contributes the idea of  ‘together’ or ‘complete’; kṛtam means ‘made’ or ‘done’. Saṃskṛtam can have two meanings:

1. ‘Made together’ or ‘made up’; and
2. ‘Completely made’ or ‘perfect’.

The first meaning, ‘made up’, can in turn be explained in two ways:
a. Made up’ or ‘artificial’ in contrast to Prākṛtam   the ‘natural’ spoken language; and,
b. ‘Made up’ or ‘put together’, because, acording to the Indian grammarians, Sanskrit is assembled from root syllables and other parts of words.

Although Sanskrit was the classical literary language of ancient India, people also spoke many other languages in their daily lives. These dialects varied depending on where a person lived, and on what class he belonged to in society. At first Sanskrit was not universally used. But by the time of the great debates between the learned Buddhist monks and the externalist philosophers of the Dharma Image Age, Sanskrit had become the standard language for the writing and communication of ideas.

Sanskrit can be said to be ‘made up’ or ‘artificial’ in the sense that, while spoken languages are constantly changing, at one point the sounds and shapes of words in Sanskrit were very thoroughly described by grammarians in terms of rigid rules. These rules were rigorously followed in speaking and writing Sanskrit. The language was not allowed to change, and so it could be said to be ‘artificial’ while the popular languages were ‘natural’.

Sanskrit is an Indo-European language, which is to say that it is very closely related to the languages of the West such as Greek, Latin, Russian, French, or English. Sanskrit and English belong to one family, while such languages as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean belong to another different family.

But if you look at Sanskrit very closely, you see it is pervaded by words and ways of speaking that come from more native Indian tongues, and by ways of the popular speech. So one may even say it is ‘made up’ or ‘put together’ from these. It is, then, called Saṃskṛtam, ‘made up’ in contrast to Prākṛtam which means ‘natural’ or ‘original’. Prā- means ‘first’ and kṛtam, as before, means ‘done’ or ‘made’.1 This explanation then considers the Prakrit languages as the ‘original material’ from which Sanskrit is made.

By Prākṛtam or Prakrit we mean the many local popular dialects used by people in their daily lives. It is just these which were spoken by the Buddha and the Buddha’s disciples. In fact the Buddha specifially instituted the Bhikshus not to put the teaching into one fixed and elegant literary or recitation form, but to teach in the languages people normally used. Later when Sanskrit was also widely spoken it qualified as a popular language.

Pali, the language in which the Ceylonese Buddhists wrote down the Buddha's teachings for the Small Vehicle, is a very old kind of Prākrit which was converted into a literary language when the Buddha's teachings were written down. The Small Vehicle teachings were also recorded in Sanskrit, and in Sanskrit we have as well the Great Vehicle Sutras and Shastras which the Small Vehicle lacks.

The second meaning of Saṃskṛtam is ‘completely made’ or ‘perfect’. The ancient Indians were not especially interested in the historical development of languages. For them Sanskrit was given by the gods just as it was, and was the most perfect of languages. In fact, they said, if someone spoke some other tongue, he was just trying to speak Sanskrit but it came out a little strange. And so, including all other languages, how could Sanskrit be less than perfect? Don't you want to study it?

1Prākṛtam is, of course, a secondary derivative as the long ā shows. The related word prakṛti means ‘nature’ or ‘original substance’.


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