The Open Buddhist University

The Pāli Language: Level 2

Begin to read the Pāli Canon in its original language, in this intermediate Pāli course taught by Gair and Karunatillake’s excellent progressive reader and guided step-by-step, as always, by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

James W. Gair and W. S. Karunatillake

What is the Pāli Language?

Pāli is the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism. An ancient, colloquial relative of Sanskrit, Pāli benefits from a number of ambiguities and variations. A testament to Pāli’s long history, such irregularities can make Pāli tricky to decipher, but (thankfully) did little to corrupt the Pali Canon as a record of the Buddha’s teachings. While the Pāli Canon is unlikely to be the verbatim words of the Buddha, studying the Pāli Language is still as close as we can get to hearing his original voice.

Course Information

This course is an introduction to reading the Pāli Canon in its original language.


Though you need not have taken the “Level 1” Primer Course to take this class, some prior knowledge of Pāli or Sanskrit is required. This course also assumes prior comfort with the doctrinal content of the Canon as it focuses more on language acquisition than philosophical engagement.

Time Requirement

There are approximately 40 hours of lectures (depending on which section you take) and approximately as much homework.

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