Does anyone know how Anapanasati is written in Pali script? I failed to find a dictionary online that could give the correct script form.


  • 1
    Do you mean with correct diacritics? Pali doesn't have it's own script. It was written down in whatever alphabet happened to be available.
    – user698
    Aug 30, 2017 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


The Anapanasati Sutta in Pali is here: https://suttacentral.net/pi/mn118

It appears there is no Pali script, per the comment made to the question:

Emperor Ashoka erected a number of pillars with his edicts in at least three regional Prakrit languages in Brahmi script, all of which are quite similar to Pali. Historically, the first written record of the Pali canon is believed to have been composed in Sri Lanka, based on a prior oral tradition. As per the Mahavamsa (the chronicle of Sri Lanka), due to a major famine in the country Buddhist monks wrote down the Pali canon during the time of King Vattagamini in 100 BC. The transmission of written Pali has retained a universal system of alphabetic values, but has expressed those values in a stunning variety of actual scripts. In Sri Lanka, Pali texts were recorded in Sinhala script. Other local scripts, most prominently Khmer, Burmese, and in modern times Thai (since 1893), Devanāgarī and Mon script (Mon State, Burma) have been used to record Pali. Since the 19th century, Pali has also been written in the Roman script. An alternate scheme devised by Frans Velthuis, called the Velthuis scheme (see § Text in ASCII) allows for typing without diacritics using plain ASCII methods, but is arguably less readable than the standard IAST system, which uses diacritical marks.


‘Pāli’ is not a language, it is the name of the mūla (source) Tripiṭaka text, as distinguished from its commentary, which is called Aṭṭhakathā - this distinction between Pāli and Aṭṭhakathā only makes sense in the commentarial tradition - it was not (and should not be) used as the name of the language.

The language of the Theravāda tripiṭaka is actually an artificially standardized (sanskritized) form of the original buddhist canon, which was written in the early Kharoṣṭhī script (only fragments of which survive today). Kharoṣṭhī was greatly unsuitable for writing sanskrit, and that is why sanskrit words written in Kharoṣṭhī appears like another language altogether (which is broadly called Middle-Indic, but is known by specific modern names like Pāli & Gāndhārī based on the script they are written in).

The oldest script in use was Kharoṣṭhī. The second-oldest script was Brāhmī. Sanskrit was written initially in Kharoṣṭhī (which did not distinguish between long and short vowels, conjunt consonants and simple consonants etc). So it became very difficult to read texts written in this script, even today western scholars are breaking their heads over whether Kharoṣṭhī texts are really in sanskrit or some new language (which in 1946 some have named as Gāndhāri, although such an independent language was never recognized at any point of time in BCE India). Anyways an improved script arose which was called Brāhmī (which did distinguish between short and long vowels) but still did not enable writing conjunct consonants properly (and scholars have named this language an early version of Pāli, which again was never known by that name in ancient India). With the passage of a few centuries, Brahmi was perfected for sanskrit, but the old ways of writing (which we call Gāndhāri & Pāli today) did not die out, they kept evolving into what became independent languages called the prākṛta languages (or prākrits)


The Kharosthi script, also spelled Kharoshthi or Kharoṣṭhī, is an ancient script used in ancient Gandhara and ancient India (primarily modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan) to write the Gandhari Prakrit and Sanskrit. It was popular in Central Asia as well. An abugida, it was in use from the middle of the 3rd century BCE until it died out in its homeland around the 3rd century CE. It was also in use in Bactria, the Kushan Empire, Sogdia and along the Silk Road, where there is some evidence it may have survived until the 7th century in the remote way stations of Khotan and Niya.


  • Oh, wow. Interesting, so there's no actual written text script for Pali. It's an oral language only, written in other languages' text.
    – J du Preez
    Aug 31, 2017 at 19:30
  • thanks. it looks like that is the case. it was new news to me, also, regards Aug 31, 2017 at 19:54

Use commentary to translate it:

Ānāpānassatikathā in http://www.tipitaka.org/romn/cscd/e0101n.mul8.xml

For the concentration meditation parts (first 4 parts form 16 parts):

Herein a monk — having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to a bodily seclusion building — sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect and setting mindfulness to the fore [lit: breathes at nose tip]. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

  1. "When he breathing in long, he contemplates 'I breathing in long'; Or when he breathing out long, he contemplates 'I breathing out long'.
  2. When he breathing in short, he contemplates 'I breathing in short'; Or when he breathing out short, he contemplates 'I breathing out short'.
  3. He trains himself 'I am breathing in and sensitively contemplating the entire breath in'. Or he trains himself 'I am breathing out and sensitively contemplating the entire breath out'.
  4. He trains himself 'I am breathing gentle breath in'. Or he trains himself 'I am breathing gentle breath in'.

cr. http://tipitaka.wikia.com

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