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。
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。
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’;
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
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
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
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
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’.