(Sansk. paryupâsati), and the like are anything else but instances of inaccurate spelling. This much is certain that thaira occurs in the inscriptions of Asoka, and in these the diphthong cannot but have the value of a short a followed by i.
If we eliminate the Sanskrit, there remain two dialects, Pâli and the Gâthâ idiom. Which of the two can lay claim to being the original language of the Buddhist scriptures or is the nearest approach to it? Pâli is intelligible in its phonetics, the Gâthâs are not. Under ordinary circumstances the comparatively greater regularity of Pâli would tend to favour its claims; the case before us is, however, so peculiar that it is not safe to draw inferences from the state in which the Gâthâs have come to us. It seems to me that the verses in the Northern books in general, as well as the prose of the Mahâvastu, have been Sanskritised to a large extent, so that they ought to be restored, as much as possible, to a more primitive form, before a comparison with Pâli can lead to satisfactory results. When we come across such words as hesthâd (Sansk. adhastâd), gunebhih, &c., we easily perceive that these forms are more primitive than Pâli hetthâ, gunehi; but what warrant have we of such forms being really in use at the time when the Gâthâs were composed, if we observe that in a verse, Lalita-vistara 53, the syllable bhih is reckoned as a short one in the words gunebhih pratipûrna? In short, in their present state the Gâthâs afford no conclusive evidence that the language in which they were composed is older than Pâli.
Whatever may have been the phonetic aspect of the oldest standard dialect of the Buddhists, its vocabulary is unmistakably closely related to that of the Satapatha-brâhmana. The coincidences are so striking that the
- That is, kayira was probably pronounced kǎira, which cannot be exactly expressed by कैर, because those who were acquainted with the rules of Sanskrit grammar would pronounce this and similar words with the sound of âi.
- The able editor of this work, M. Senart, makes the following remarks on its language (p. xii): 'Nous sommes ici en présence d'une langue irrégulière et instable, mélange singulier de formes diverses d'âge et d'origine.'