First for all I know that the correct Sanskrit word is धर्म (pronounced as Dharma) same goes with Nibbana (Nirvana, निर्वाण in Sanskrit) as Siddharth was born in India.

So either Pali is just a local dialect as people in Nepal region are not able to pronounce R र.

Same goes with native English speaker they roll R, I mean when we say car in India our tongue vibrates, which doesn’t happen with Native english speaker.

Why do we use Dhamma instead of Dharma?

3 Answers 3


Dharma (Sanskrit) or Dhamma (Pāli) in Buddhism can be taken to mean the same, and as having two primary meanings: the teachings of the Buddha which lead to enlightenment, and the constituent factors of the experienced world. But to me Dhamma (Pāli) is “Suddhamma” and refers only to the teachings of the Supreme Buddha. Whereas Dharma is regarded variably by different traditions, and generally regarded as an ultimate and transcendent truth which is utterly beyond worldly things.

The Importance of learning PALI Language, and using the Pali words is mainly because today Buddhism is many things to many people, mostly laden with rites, rituals, icon worship, so-called collection and transference of merit etc. - things the Buddha clearly rejected as non-Dhamma. To study SudDhamma, it is important that we learn Pali, at least to some degree as all translations are hazardous. The Dhamma (as opposed to Dharma) is found only in the Teaching that were taught by the Buddha himself - Suttas and connected texts such as the Sutta Nipâta, Dhammapada, Udâna, Itivuttaka, and Thérathéri Gâthâ. [I here refer only to Théravâda Buddhist Text].

To make my point clear may I mention here the statement “Vidya Dadati Vinayam” - this is written not in Pali, but in Sanskrit. Therefore, it has no connection with Buddhism, as we think. Secondly, it was not the Buddha who stated that learning gives discipline, but the brahmins who maintained their authority through the means of education. What Buddhism reiterates is exactly the opposite of this. What is repeatedly stated in the Pali Canon is that discipline should be achieved before learning. The motto of Buddhism is “first discipline, second learning”.

But again if we take later text such as “Milinda Panha”, it was originally a Sanskrit Buddhist text. For those who do not know what I am coming to…. King Menander I (Milindu/ Milinda in Pali language) was a powerful Indo-Greek monarch who ruled “Sagalapura” in historical India (Now Sialkot in North-east of Panjab province in Pakistan at the foot of the Kashmir hills near the Chenab river), somewhere in the 150 BCE.

King Milindu learnt dhamma from Arahanth Nagasena - with his famous questions and Arahanth Nagasena successfully answering all of them which led the king to ordain under the Arahanth abdicating his throne and later, attained Nirvana (Nibbana). The questions of King Milindu and the answers given to them by Arahanth Nagasena are recorded in the “Milinda Panha”, probably written in Sanskrit at the beginning and later translated to Pali. Today, there are many translations of the book in different languages.


Dhamma is the pali version of the word- In the time of Buddha , there was a conscious decision to record the teachings in Pali rather than Sanskrit. As sanskrit was not accessible to all and created a division between those who has access to it and who were interested in higher knowledge, but Pali was a common tongue in the region.

But it is to be understood that Dharma(be it sanskrit or pali) in the context of Buddhism means much more than mere Duties as the common usage in Sanskrit means. Dhamma is the very body of Buddhas teachings which is said to be universal in truth.

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    Also Pali was not a language confined to nepal alone, it was widely spoken in the regions where Buddha travelled in India as well. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 9:17
  • धर्मः तस्माद्धर्मात् परं नास्त्य् अथो अबलीयान् बलीयाँसमाशँसते धर्मेण यथा राज्ञैवम् । यो वै स धर्मः सत्यं वै तत् तस्मात्सत्यं वदन्तमाहुर् धर्मं वदतीति धर्मं वा वदन्तँ सत्यं वदतीत्य् एतद्ध्येवैतदुभयं भवति ।। Nothing is higher than Dharma. The weak overcomes the stronger by Dharma, as over a king. Truly that Dharma is the Truth (Satya); Therefore, when a man speaks the Truth, they say, "He speaks the Dharma"; and if he speaks Dharma, they say, "He speaks the Truth!" For both are one. — Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.xiv [43][44] Source Wikipedia
    – Ritesh.mlk
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 9:49
  • I just want to inform you that Sanskrit is the oldest language, it is so deep that ancient sages have spent multiple life times to understand vedic mantras written in so many languages, as far as word Dharma is concerned it is of highest priority in Hindu as well which we were aware 11000 years. Mahatma Buddha is well respected in India, after all he was born here, got enlightenment here.
    – Ritesh.mlk
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 9:59
  • @Rishi I'm absolutely all agreeing with you! As esthetical concern, the word "Dharma" is more well proportioned than the "Dhamma". I heard Koreans don't hv "p" so they couldn't pronounce it but make it like "f" or what... Just yesterday I was searching internet "why Pali has so few "r" but replaced with double "m"s. I only get to know those Pali words in this forum. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 14:26
  • @Thubten Dorje "there was a conscious decision to record the teachings in Pali rather than Sanskrit" this is a wrong assumption. read this post[link]buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/10679/… Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 15:38

It is important to note that the Buddha taught in Magadhi, a dialect of the eastern-UP region; however much later his teachings were written down in Pali. The Buddha specifically did not teach in Sanskrit because it was the language associated with the brahmins, the high-caste priests. And it is very important to note that a lot of the Buddha's teachings were a response to brahminical ideology, so he deliberately did not want to teach in Sanskrit. Also, Magadhi was more vernacular than Sanskrit.


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