[Buddha-l] liturgical languages

Richard P. Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Fri May 13 15:16:39 MDT 2005

On Fri, 2005-05-13 at 14:35 -0400, Richard Nance wrote:

> If you want to stick close to the Sanskrit, the appropriate
> translation would be something like "awakening" for the Sanskrit
> "bodhi" (the term is a noun) and one who is (or has) "awakened" for
> the Sanskrit "buddha" (it's a bhuute k.rdanta, past passive
> participle).

Buddhist scholastics interpreted "buddha" in two ways. In one sense, it
means "one who has awakened" (hence kartari rather than karma.ni), and
in a second sense it means "one who learned and hence knows" (also

In the first sense, the metaphor is that of someone who has come out of
a stupor or intoxicated state. So the English translation that best
captures this sense is perhaps "The Sober One" or, or if we want to
follow the jargon of modern substance abuse programs, "He who is in

In the second sense, it has the sense of being wise. So a buddha is a
wise person or a sage. (Side issue: why is the English expression "Wise
man" considered more respectful than "Wise guy"?)

I am pulling all this up from memory. Nobuhiko Kobayashi wrote a 100-
page paper on the various meanings of the word "buddha" according to
Buddhist scholastics. It was replete with references to Paa.nini. I have
a copy of it in some box in storage somewhere. It really impressed me
when I read it some thirty years ago. Kobayashi also did a wonderful
paper, equally long, on the meaning of the phrase "tathaagata".

Richard Hayes
Department of Philosophy
University of New Mexico

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