Light on Epigraphic Pali: More on the Buddha Teaching in Pali

Stefan Karpik


The view that the Buddha spoke Māgadhī, as reflected in the Eastern Aśokan inscriptions, is a myth of 20th century scholarship. Computer searches of the sources are now possible, and disprove that myth; in general, the term ‘Māgadhī’ was scrupulously avoided in the Pali commentaries. If attention is given instead to Salomon’s ‘central western epigraphic Prakrit’, it can be seen as a later reflex of Pali by a method of presentation unique to this paper. Accordingly, it should be merged with the existing category of Epigraphic Pali and serious attention given to the Theravada tradition that the Buddha spoke Pali. An outline of the development of Buddhist canons in India is provided on the hypothesis that Pali was the original Buddhist language for them all. This does not necessarily mean that Theravada texts are the most authentic Buddhist texts.

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