Buddhist Sanskrit vs. Hindu Sanskrit?

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Tenma
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Buddhist Sanskrit vs. Hindu Sanskrit?

Post by Tenma »

I’ve been meaning to start learning Sanskrit but before starting, I wanted to ask: when one looks through various Sanskrit sentences, does it depend on the script? Are there differences to how Hindu and Buddhist phrases are grammatically structured? For instance, let’s say a comparison between the Nilakantha Dharani and Shiva Tandava Stotram.
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Aemilius
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Re: Buddhist Sanskrit vs. Hindu Sanskrit?

Post by Aemilius »

Sanskrit is used, and has been used, in many different world views: theistic, nontheistic, scientific, materialistic, sramana and non-sramana... It is written with several different scripts.

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svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
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Zhen Li
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Re: Buddhist Sanskrit vs. Hindu Sanskrit?

Post by Zhen Li »

Tenma wrote: Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:15 pm I’ve been meaning to start learning Sanskrit but before starting, I wanted to ask: when one looks through various Sanskrit sentences, does it depend on the script? Are there differences to how Hindu and Buddhist phrases are grammatically structured? For instance, let’s say a comparison between the Nilakantha Dharani and Shiva Tandava Stotram.
I would not suggest starting with dhāraṇī for investigating grammatical structure, as most of them lack any.

Buddhist Sanskrit has sometimes been characterised as a language in and of itself, "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit." If you are interested in learning Sanskrit, I would suggest taking a course, but short of that, if you wish to rely on textbooks, any standard introduction to classical Sanskrit, which also introduces the use of scripts (at least Devanāgarī) would be ideal. I am partial to Goldman's Devavāṇīpraveśikā. After that, Dhammajoti's textbook Reading Buddhist Sanskrit Texts might help you get into reading Buddhist Sanskrit.

For work beyond that, any reading of Buddhist Sanskrit texts needs to be accompanied, at least, by Franklin Edgerton's Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary, which is a two volume set. He also has a good explanation in his introduction about the characteristics of Buddhist Sanskrit, which will go into more detail about your question than any forum posts can.

In short, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit is, in bulk, Classical in grammar and vocabulary, but depending on the origin of the text, will have regional variants in declension and conjugation, and sometimes in vocabulary. This vocabulary would be drawn from local Prakrits, and thus BHS has a lot of similarities to Pāḷi. BHS also appears to represent an attempt by Buddhists in South Asia to translate into Classical Sanskrit, texts which were composed in their local languages, and thus also may preserve some forms from those languages or give us clues as to the original intended word. A common examples is sattva, which is often written satta. Spelling is highly variant as well, and it is probably more likely to see satva in a manuscript than sattva. I generally read Nepalese manuscripts, and common variants include adjustments to the local pronunciations, e.g. e becomes ya or ai.

Essentially, Buddhist texts from South Asia are either in perfect Classical Sanskrit (e.g. Buddhacarita or Saundarananda), in Middle Indic (which generally indicates Pāḷi but also Prakrits), and BHS. Just as a brief example, Edgerton gives the following definition of BHS in his grammar (section 1.4)
Most North Indian Buddhist texts are composed in [BHS]. It is based primarily on an old Middle Indic vernacular not otherwise identifiable. But there seems reason to believe that it contains features which were borrowed (originally, or in the course of historical development, or both) from other Middle Indic dialects. In other words, even its Middle Indic aspects are dialectically somewhat mixed. (For that matter, we shall soon see that the same could be said of Pali, and probably of all other Middle Indic dialects of which we have any considerable knowledge.) Most strikingly, however, BHS was also extensively influenced by Sanskrit, from the vary beginning of the tradition as it has been transmitted to us, and increasingly as time went on. Many (especially later) products of this tradition have often, though I think misleadingly, been called simply 'Sanskrit', without qualification.
Thus, BHS is, generally, a partial Sanskritisation of an earlier text. Generally verses are even more partially Sanskritised and are completely incomprehensible to someone trained only in Classical Sanskrit. Nīlakaṇṭha Dhāraṇī is a text with a complicated history and to use it as an example would excessively complicate things. But to use a more standard case, we see in the BHS Lotus Sutra that the prose is largely classical, with a few oddities here and there in terms of grammatical form, but the verses are chock full of irregularities. Generally Saivite stotra or in Puranas, while there are exceptions, would not have such things and would conform to Panini's rules and traditional metres.
tingdzin
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Re: Buddhist Sanskrit vs. Hindu Sanskrit?

Post by tingdzin »

Superb answer, Zhen Li. I might somply add that modern researchers seem to think BHS is more related to Gandhari Prakrit.
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Zhen Li
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Re: Buddhist Sanskrit vs. Hindu Sanskrit?

Post by Zhen Li »

There are influences from a number of Prakrits, including Pāli, it really depends on the text and its geographical origin. Sometimes BHS shows heavy signs of local Prakrit influence, and sometimes it is barely distinguishable from classical Sanskrit except for vocabulary.
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