The following passages are reproduced from the book “Old Path White Clouds (Chapter 68)” written by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book is an excellent Biography of Bhagwan Buddha.
The next afternoon Venerables Yamelu and Tekula visited the Buddha at his hut. These two bhikkhus were brothers from the brahmana caste. They were well-known for their expertise in linguistics and ancient literature. When they recited the scriptures, their voices were clear as bells and as resonant as drums. They bowed to the Buddha, and he invited them to be seated.
Venerable Yamelu spoke, “Lord, we would like to speak to you concerning the question of language as it relates to the dissemination of the teaching. Lord, you usually deliver your talks in Magadhi, but Magadhi is not the native tongue of many bhikkhus, and the people in some of the regions where the bhikkus teach do not understand Magadhi. Thus, they translate the teaching into local dialects. Before we were ordained, we had the good fortune to study many dialects and languages. It is our observation that the sublime and subtle nuances of your teaching have been hampered by being translated into local dialects and idioms. We would like your permission to render all your teachings into the classical meter of the Vedic language. If all the bhikkhus studied and taught the teaching in one language, distortion and error could be avoided.”
The Buddha was silent for a moment. Then he said, “It would not be beneficial to follow your suggestion. The Dharma is a living reality. The words used to transmit it should be the words used daily by the people. I do not want the teaching to be transmitted in a language that can be understood by only a few scholars. Yamelu and Tekula, I want all my disciples, both ordained and lay, to study and practice the Dharma in their native tongues. That way the Dharma will remain vital and accessible. The Dharma must be applicable to present life, and compatible with local culture.”
Gautama Buddha has revealed his wisdom and farsightedness in these words. These words have relevance for us in today’s scenario in India. I am of firm conviction that Sanskrit is one of the main causes leading to exploitation in the name of religion.