The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
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Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit
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Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit (BHS) is a modern linguistic category applied to the language used in a class of Indian Buddhist texts, such as the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. BHS is classified as a Middle Indic language. It is sometimes called "Buddhist Sanskrit" or "Mixed Sanskrit" Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit writings emerged after the codification in the 4th century BCE of Classical Sanskrit by the scholar Pāṇini. His standardized version of the language that had evolved from the ancient Vedic came to be known as "Sanskrit" (meaning "refined", or "completely formed"). Prior to this, Buddhist teachings are not known to have generally been recorded in the language of the Brahmanical elites. At the time of the Buddha, instruction in it was restricted to members of the twice-born castes. While Gautama Buddha was probably familiar with what is now called Sanskrit, his teachings were apparently first promulgated in local languages. At one point he ruled against translating his teachings into Vedic, saying that to do so would be foolish—as the language of the Vedas, Vedic was by that time an archaic and obsolete language.
After Pāṇini's work, Sanskrit became the pre-eminent language for literature and philosophy in India. Buddhist monks began to adapt the language they used to it, while remaining under the influence of a linguistic tradition stemming from the protocanonical Prakrit of the early oral tradition. While there are widely differing theories regarding the relationship of this language to Pāli, it is certain that Pāli is much closer to this language than Sanskrit is. According to K.R. Norman, Pāli could also be considered a form of BHS. However, Franklin Edgerton states that Pāli is in essence a Prakrit.