The Prosody of the Texts

 

1: Compositional Analysis

Of the 29 pieces that comprise the Catubhāṇavārapāḷi, 13 are written in prose only, 4 in verse only, and 12 are mixed. Below is a table giving a compositional analysis of the texts found in the main section of the book:

1.

Saraṇagamanaṁ

prose

2.

Dasasikkhāpadāni

prose

3.

Sāmaṇerapañhaṁ

prose

4.

Dvāttiṁsākāraṁ

prose

5.

Paccavekkhaṇā

prose

6.

Dasadhammasuttaṁ

prose

7.

Mahāmaṅgalasuttaṁ

prose introduction, 12 vs. Siloka

8.

Ratanasuttaṁ

17 vs. Tuṭṭhubha/Jagatī

9.

Karaṇīyamettasuttaṁ

10 vs. Old Gīti

10.

Khandhaparittaṁ

prose, 4 vs. Siloka

11.

Mettānisaṁsasuttaṁ

prose

12.

Mittānisaṁsaṁ

10 vs. Siloka

13.

Moraparittaṁ

4 vs. Tuṭṭhubha, 1 vs. Siloka

14.

Candaparittaṁ

prose, 4 vs. Siloka

15.

Suriyaparittaṁ

prose, 4 vs. Siloka, 1 vs. Tuṭṭhubha

16.

Dhajaggaparittaṁ

prose, 4 vs. Siloka

17.

Mahākassapattherabojjhaṅgaṁ

prose

18.

Mahāmoggallānattherabojjhaṅgaṁ

prose

19.

Mahācundattherabojjhaṅgaṁ

prose

20.

Girimānandasuttaṁ

prose

21.

Isigilisuttaṁ

prose, 12 vs. Tuṭṭhubha

22.

Dhammacakkappavattanasutta

prose

23.

Mahāsamayasuttaṁ

prose, 64 vs. Siloka, 2 vs. Tuṭṭhubha,
1 vs. Svāgatā, 3 vs. mixed metre

24.

Ālavakasuttaṁ

prose, 10 vs. Siloka, 2 vs. Tuṭṭhubha

25.

Kasībhāradvājasuttaṁ

prose, 5 vs. Siloka, 2 vs. Tuṭṭhubha

26.

Parābhavasuttaṁ

prose introduction, 25 vs. Siloka

27.

Vasalasuttaṁ

prose, 27 vs. Siloka

28.

Saccavibhaṅgasuttaṁ

prose

29.

Āṭānāṭiyasuttaṁ

prose, 104 vs. Siloka (i.e. 52 vs. repeated)

It will be seen from the above that, as presented here, there are 328 verses in the text, of which 278 are Siloka; Tuṭṭhubha accounts for 40 verses; Old Gīti for 10; Svāgatā 1; and there are 3 verses in mixed metre at the beginning of Mahāsamayasuttaṁ.

 

2: Siloka

At all stages of the language, the most important and prevalent metre has been the Siloka, which has a great deal of flexibility, and seems to be equally well adapted to aphorism, question & answer, narrative, and epic. In the Catubhāṇavārapāḷi, as can be seen from the table above, Siloka accounts for about 95% of all the verses found in the text.

A Siloka verse normally consists of 4 lines (sometimes 6) with 8 syllables to the line, organized in dissimilar pairs which are repeated to make up a verse (note that owing to resolution sometimes a Siloka line may contain 9 syllables).

Here is an analysis of the pathyā (normal) structure of the Siloka:

Odd line:

 

 ⏓⏓⏓¦⏑−−×

Even line:

 

 ⏓⏓⏓¦⏑−⏑×

In the 2nd & 3rd positions two successive shorts ⏑⏑ are normally avoided, as we can see through changes that have been made in syllabic length, though in some texts they do seem to occur.

In the odd lines 7 variations (vipulā) occur, besides the normal structure, they are:

Anuṭṭhubha

 

 ⏓⏓⏓¦⏑−⏑×

navipula

 

 −⏓−¦⏑⏑⏑×

bhavipula

 

 −⏓−¦−⏑⏑×

mavipula

 

 −⏓−¦−−−×

ravipula

 

 ⏓⏓⏓¦−⏑−×

savipula

 

 ⏓⏓⏓¦⏑⏑−×

tavipula

 

 −⏑−¦−−⏑× (very sporadic)

For those unfamiliar with Pāḷi verse the thing to listen for is the cadence at the end of the pair of lines (pādayuga), which gives the Siloka its characteristic rhythm:

  5  6  7  8
¦⏑−⏑×

The layout adopted for the Siloka verses can be illustrated by this verse from Vasalasuttaṁ:


1.

−⏑−⏑¦⏑−−−¦¦−⏑−−¦⏑−⏑−
“kodhano upanāhī ca, pāpamakkhī ca yo naro,

⏑−⏑−¦⏑−−−¦¦−−−⏑¦⏑−⏑−
vipannadiṭṭhi māyāvī, taṁ jaññā vasalo iti.

 

3: Tuṭṭhubha/Jagatī

In Catubhāṇavārapāḷi there are some 40 verses in the Tuṭṭhubha/Jagatī metre, Ratanasuttaṁ and Isigilisuttaṁ accounting for nearly 75% of this number. The Tuṭṭhubha normally has 11 syllables to the line (occasionally 12, when there is resolution), and its structure is defined as follows:

   1  2    3  4  5    6   7  8  9  10  11
 −−¦⏓⏑⏒¦−⏑−× x4

In a Tuṭṭhubha verse a line in Jagatī metre is always acceptable. This metre is much the same as Tuṭṭhubha, but with an extra short syllable in penultimate position, giving it a line length of 12 syllables (13 with resolution):

   1  2  3  4   5   6   7  8   9 10  11  12
 −−¦⏓⏑⏒¦−⏑−⏑× x4

The layout of the Tuṭṭhubha and Jagatī metres can be illustrated by the following verse from Ratanasuttaṁ

⏑−⏑−¦−,⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−    Jagatī
8. yathindakhīlo paṭhaviṁ sito siyā

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑,⏑¦−⏑−⏑−     Jagatī
catubbhi vātehi asampakampiyo,

⏑−⏑−,¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−
tathūpamaṁ sappurisaṁ vadāmi,

−−⏑−¦−⏑,⏑¦−⏑−⏑−     Jagatī
yo ari yasaccāni avecca passati -

⏑−⏑−¦−,⏑⏑¦−⏑−−
idam-pi saṅghe ratanaṁ paṇītaṁ:

−−⏑−¦−⏑,⏑¦−⏑−−
etena saccena suvatthi hotu!

 

4: Old Gīti

Karaṇīyamettasuttaṁ is written in one of the new musical metres. The basic organisational principle of the two metres we have considered so far has been the number of syllables there are in the line, normally Siloka has 8, Tuṭṭhubha 11. However, if we count a short syllable as one measure, and a long syllable as two, it is possible to count the total number of measures (mattā) there are in a line, and use this as the determining factor for line length.

This is exactly the principle involved in the first of the new metres to evolve, the so called Mattāchandas, or measure metres. For instance in the metre called Vetālīya, the first line has 14 measures, and the second 16, the syllable count being variable. Once a mattā count was established it was not long before a second structural principle was introduced, which was to organise the lines into gaṇas, or sections. A gaṇa consists of 4 measures, which may therefore take any one of the following forms:

−− or −⏑⏑ or ⏑⏑− or ⏑⏑− or ⏑⏑⏑−

This gave rise to the Gaṇacchandas metres. Old Gīti appears to be a transitional metre between Mattāchandas and Gaṇacchandas. Its structure can be defined as follows:

⏔−¦⏑−⏑¦⏓−¦⏓,¦¦⏔−¦⏑−⏑¦⏔−¦×    x 2

Sometimes a long syllable is resolved into two short syllables. The fourth gaṇa, after the first syllable of which there is normally a pause and word break, seems to be particuarly ill-defined. This metre soon fell out of use after it had attained its classical form as Gīti, Ariyā, and their variations, and this may account for the poor state metrically of the three discourses in this metre that are found in the canon. As it now stands there are only a couple of verses in Karaṇīyamettasuttaṁ that scan correctly. One of these is the first verse which is given below as the example:


1.

⏑⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦⏑⏑−¦⏑,−−¦−−¦⏑−⏑¦⏑⏑−¦−
karaṇīyam-atthakusalena, yan-taṁ santaṁ padaṁ abhisamecca:

−−¦⏑−⏑¦−−¦⏑,⏑⏑¦−−¦⏑⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑−¦−
sakko ujū ca sūjū ca, suvaco cassa mudu anatimānī,

 

5: Other Metres

The first 4 verses of Mahāsamayasuttaṁ are in a mixture of metres, mainly mattāchandas, but not all of the lines are clear. The third verse in written in the old form of Svāgatā, the profile of which may be characterized thus:

−⏑⏒⏓−−⏔×

−⏑⏒⏓−−⏑⏑−× x2

The other verses can be summarized here: 1ab = Siloka, cd = Svāgatā 2ab = Opacchandasakā, c = Vegavatī, d = Vetālīya; 4a = Tuṭṭhubha, b = Vegavatī, c = Siloka; d = ??

The Vegavatī cadence: −⏑⏑−×

 

6: Prose

That completes the description of the metres that are found in Catubhāṇavārapāḷi. However, more than half the book is not in verse, but prose. The prosody of verse is relatively easy to exemplify because it can be abstracted and displayed in such terms as line length, structural pattern, variations, and so on. It is often forgotten that prose too has a rhythmic structure, and every language has what is often an unexplored prosody of prose. Canonical Pāḷi is particuarly rich in rhythmic effect, which arises from rhetorical, or didactic, repetition on the one hand, and the grammatical structure of the language on the other. Consider the following passage from near the beginning of Dhammacakkappavattanasuttaṁ:

a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
h.
i.
j.
k.
l.
m.
n.

o.
p.
q.
r.
s.
t.
u.
v.

Dve me bhikkhave antā pabbajitena na sevitabbā,
yo cāyaṁ: kāmesu kāmasukhallikānuyogo,
hīno, gammo, pothujjaniko, anariyo, anatthasaṁhito;
yo cāyaṁ: attakilamathānuyogo,
dukkho, anariyo, anatthasaṁhito.
Ete te bhikkhave ubho ante anupagamma,
majjhimā paṭipadā, Tathāgatena abhisambuddhā,
cakkhukaraṇī, ñāṇakaraṇī,
upasamāya abhiññāya Sambodhāya Nibbānāya saṁvattati.
Katamā ca sā bhikkhave
majjhimā paṭipadā, Tathāgatena abhisambuddhā,
cakkhukaraṇī, ñāṇakaraṇī,
upasamāya abhiññāya Sambodhāya Nibbānāya saṁvattati?
Ayam-eva ariyo aṭṭhangiko maggo, seyyathīdam:

i. sammādiṭṭhi
ii. sammāsaṅkappo
iii. sammāvācā
v. sammākammanto
v. sammā-ājīvo
vi.sammāvāyāmo
vii. sammāsati
viii. sammāsamādhi.

In Pāḷi words in conjunction often show the same ending, this is especially true of adjectives, which adopt the grammatical structure of the nouns they qualify. Note the adjectives in lines c & e, which qualify the respective nouns in lines b & d above, giving these lines a clear assonance, which has a marked effect in recital. Also nouns when aligned may show the same ending, as in line i (and m), where all the nouns are in dative singular, and both alliteration and assonance are apparent.

Complex rythmic effect is also achieved through repetition of one sort or another. Note, for instance, the repetition of the first half of the compound in lines o - v, or the second half of the compound in line h (and l). Not only words, but whole phrases are frequently repeated, in our example cf. lines g - i with lines k - m. Unfortunately the aesthetic and architectural structure of the Pāḷi is often obliterated by elision in modern editions of both texts and translations, and this, as often as not, also serves to blunt the rhetorical effect as well.

As can be seen from this short analysis of one small passage Pāḷi prose is rich in rhythm, and what is normally considered to be “poetic” effect. Without doubt originally the prime reason for repetition in the texts was didactic in nature, serving to reinforce certain basic teachings, and in connection with this we should remind ourselves that at first these teachings were for reciting and listening to, and were never read privately as such until they were written down some 4 centuries after the Buddha's parinibbāna.