Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Equanimity Part 5

This is the whole fourth immeasurable. One possible translation is below, but based on the earlier postings you could actually put together your own personal translation!

May all live in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion towards near and far ones.

To add my notes, all means all, including bigger and smaller animals you encounter, even things like snakes, spiders, nasty dogs and so on.

Four Immeasurables, Equanimity Part 4

This is the last part of the fourth immeasurable. btang nyoms, as mentioned earlier, is equanimity.

la is a particle, connects equanimity with the right side, and connect this from the right to left.

gnas pa is to abide, stay. Note the r at the end, again this is a subjugation particle that binds this with gyur cig - may it be so.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Equanimity Part 3

To follow the fourth immeasurable line, next is dang which is a binding particle, so it binds the earlier nye ring chags sdang -- attachment and aversions towards close and far -- with the next part.

We had bral ba before -- to be free from. Notice the ending ba'i, that's again the genitive particle, and read this from the right to left. btang snyoms is equanimity. So this is connected, equanimity of being free from aversions towards close and far.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Equanimity Part 2

The fourth immeasurable starts this way. nye ring means biased mind, or prejudice. nye is near, and ring is far, so one way to think of this expression is to keep some things close, and others far from.

chags sdang means attachment and aversion, chags is attachment, sdang is aversion.

So the whole expression nye ring chags sdang is attachment and aversion towards those close and far.

Four Immeasurables, Equanimity Part 1

The fourth of the four immeasurables, tshad med bzhi, is btang snyoms, equanimity. It could also be translated as impartiality. In Sanskrit this is upeksha.

There's a saying, that if there are two beings sitting next to a Buddha -- one is praising the Buddha, the other is poking needles into him -- the Buddha is impartial to both, and applies all the other three immeasurables with the same level. I think that kind of explains the immeasurable result if this is applied to all sentient beings. But it helps to start in the family, friends, and co-worker scenario.

Sometimes, in a teaching, this is the first immeasurable that is recommended to be cultivated, as it opens up the door for the other immeasurables to develop.

btang is to give away, abandon, and snyoms is equal, balanced.

Four Immeasurables, Sympathetic Joy Part 4

This is the whole third immeasurable. A typical translation is something like this:

Maybe all sentient beings never be separated from the bliss without sorrow.

As mentioned earlier, this is the code word for bliss that enlightened beings experience. It is the only form of bliss that is not tainted, compared with samsaric bliss that has to end at some point. The only reason samsaric bliss was in first place was specific good deeds in the past that created the causes for this bliss.

Fortunately, there are ways to create this sorrowless bliss that will never cease.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Sympathetic Joy Part 3

The end of the third immeasurable line looks like this.

dang is pointing at the earlier part of the verse we looked at -- this is a good example of how dang is more than the English word and, it's a binding particle that binds two parts together.

When you see the word mi, be careful, in most cases it's a negation, but mi also means human.

'bral ba is to be separated from, disconnected, so mi 'bral ba is the opposite, not separated.

We looked at the r at the end of verbs before, it's another particle, subjugation particle, and it binds this with gyur cig, may it become.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Sympathetic Joy Part 2

The third immeasurable line starts this way. We have seen sdug bsngal before, it's suffering.

med pa is a form of negation, it means non-existent, absent, free from. This is connected to the first part, sdug bsngal. Notice the 'i at the end of med pa, it means that there is a genitive particle that binds this with the next construct, bde ba.

bde ba is happiness. So when you combine this sequence, it becomes happiness of no suffering.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Sympathetic Joy Part 1

The third immeasurable is dga' ba, in Sanskrit mudita. It's one of those hard words to translate, typical ones is joy, bliss, rapture, happiness, or sympathetic joy that I selected this time.

The third verse will clarify it all, but to sneak some information in, this is the happiness that enlightened beings experience every moment of their existence. So it's not samsaric happiness that comes and goes. The word bliss is used to express this state, but it's close to being misunderstood as a big bliss-out trip -- and that's neither the state, as enlightened beings are totally aware and blissful at the same time.

The closest example I could think of is a summer morning on vacation when someone is awake and has no worries, and could just experience everything without any kind of negativity, and multiply that state with an infinite number...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Compassion Part 4

This is the whole second immeasurable: may all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

The sufferings could be classified into three kinds, sdug bsngal gsum:

sdug sgnal gi sgud bsngal, the suffering of suffering. This is ordinary suffering, headaches, cold, sore throat and so on.

'gyur ba'i sdug bsngal, the suffering of change. This is based on wrong world views where the assertion is that nothing will change, a new car will always be new, the new job will always be rosy, and so on.

'du byed kyi sdug bsngal, the all-persistent suffering. This is stuck in samsara, where all the sufferings are present.

So the second immeasurable is to wish and act that all sentient beings are free from these sufferings.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Compassion Part 3

This is the end of the second immeasurable verse.

bral ba means to be rid of, separated from, or free from. Notice the r at the end, it's a particle, general subjucation particle. It makes a relationship between the bral ba and the verbs or parts to the right.

We lookd at gyur cig before; it's indeed a very common expression, especially in aspiration prayers, may it be so.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Compassion Part 2

The second line, the one about immeasurable compassion, snying rje, starts with this sentence.

sdug bsngal is suffering, another very common term when reading Buddhist texts. The rest part, dang sdug bsngal gyi rgyu, looks familiar from before. So this is suffering and the causes of suffering.

Also notice that the sentence implies that we are dealing with sems can thams cad.

All together, the second immeasurable has to do with all sentient beings, and their sufferings including the causes for their sufferings.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Four Immeasurables - Compassion Part 1

The second of the four immeasurables, tshad med bzhi, is snying rje, in Sanskrit karuna, compassion.

The definition of snying rje is to free all beings from suffering and the causes of suffering, so it's not hard to figure out what the second immeasurable is.

snying is heart, and rje is great, a word added to the end of other nouns to increase the definition, so another way to translate this, and to remember that snying is heart, is great heart. This translation also gives the translated sentence a nice boost of positive emotion, as well, so it could be used from time to time, as long as it's clear that we are dealing with compassion.

There are forms of compassion, from wanting to help someone over the street, to the level of snying rje chen po, mahakaruna, great compassion, which is indeed the wish to remove all suffering from the lives of everyone, and do something very active to get to a state where someone could actually do this.

Se also this earlier posting of the differences between byams pa and snying rje.

As we have gone through the first line, and the formats are very similar, we could now progress faster through the rest of the lines, with the exception of the last of the four immeasurables, as it's a long sentence.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Loving Kindness Line

So here's the first line of the four immeasurables: May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.

This is the limitless loving-kindness aspiration as well as activity, to make sure all sentient beings, whoever they are, known or unknown, friend or foe, that they all should be happy and have all the causes of happiness. The amount of sentient beings is limitless, so the karma created from this thinking and action is also limitless.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Loving Kindness Part 4

The last part of the first immeasurable line ends with dang ldan par gyur cig.

dang ldan par refers to the earlier section, bde dang bde ba'i rgyu, happiness and the causes of happiness. dang ldan pa is a possessive particle combination, we looked this this some time ago at this entry. It could be roughtly translated as imbued with, possessed with, or having. Maybe having is here a good translation, even if it's good to know about the alternatives. So we are dealing with having happiness and the causes of happiness. But also note that this ends with an r, dang ldan par, where the lonely r is another particle, it connects the verb expression we are looking next with the possessive combination.

gyur cig is another common expression that we looked at here. It is an expression found in many verses, means may it be like that.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Loving Kindness Part 3

The middle part of the first immeasurable has this section, bde ba is happiness, also sometimes bliss, but in this specific case it is translated as happiness. In tantric texts this would most likely be bliss. It could even be shortened to bde.

In Sanskrit this is sukha, as in Sukhavati, realm of bliss, in Tibetan bde ba can -- the place that contains bliss. The tantric form is the mahasukha, great bliss. Sukhavati is the pure realm of Amitabha, arealm where a practitioner could take rebirth during bardo through a combination of pure faith, merit, and single-pointed determination to get there.

dang is the binding particle, binding to bde ba'i rgyu. rgyu is cause or causes, and there's a genitive particle between bde ba and rgyu, the 'i letter, so when you combine this from right to left it is the causes of happiness. rgyu is another of those words good to learn, as it's used to define causes of all kinds.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Loving Kindness Part 2

The first line of the four immeasurable verses, loving kindness, starts with these words. The blog has gone through this expression before, it's a very common one, so it's highly recommended to learn it, as you will see this over and over again.

sems can is sentient being(s), thams cad is all, sarva in Sanskrit. So the line starts with the object of all sentient beings.

For those who want to learn the letters, the first letter after the long stroke, shah, is the letter sa, but the long line above it turns it into se, the line on top means an e-vowel. Tibetan does not have any vowels per se, rather the letters are ornamented with signs that indicates the vowel itself.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Four Immeasurables, Loving Kindness Part 1

The first of the four immeasurables, tshad med bzhi, is byams pa, in Sanskrit maitri, loving kindness. This is the wish that all sentient beings may be happy.

byams pa is also the Tibetan name for the Bodhisattva or Buddha Maitreya. Depending on the presentation, byams pa is either a bodhisattva, or an already enlightened being, Buddha.

Sometimes byams pa is also shortened down to byams.

If you are brand new to Tibetan letters, the last letter between the dot (tsek) and the stroke (shah) is pa.

See also the earlier posting about byams pa versus snying rje.

Next we will go through the first line about byams pa in the verses on the tshad med bzhi.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Four Immeasurables

tshad med bzhi is the four immeasurables. You would encounter this term and the four immeasurables in many places, especially in practice texts where it is common for the practitioner to recite and meditate on these four in the beginning, so it's good to learn the translation. This way when you look at practice texts you could quickly find the verses and know what they are.

tshad means measure, med is a negation, so tshad med means immeasurable. bzhi is four, so there we have the four immeasurables. Now, there are other translations of this term, the four unlimited states, and so on, but I like this term myself, as the idea is that by cultivating these four, the benefits are immeasurable.

Sangye Khadro has a beautiful commentary on the four immeasurables here.

Next we will first present the four immeasurables, and then go through a very common four-liner foun in many practice texts (in this case Sakya practice texts) where the four immeasuables are cultivated.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Bodhisattva Way Of Life - Author, translator and history

Now, the end of the text usually has the information about the author, the translators involved, and the history behind the text, commentary, and the translation.

You could go to to the end of the Alex Berzin translation and compare this with the end of the ACIP version of the Bodhisattva Way of Life. Note that it is very common that various Indian texts where translated and retranslated many times.

In many cases the texts also end with a beautiful sign-off, in Sanskrit, such as sarva mangalam, may everything be auspicious.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bodhisattva Way Of Life - Chapters

So how do we know what the chapter names are? In this text the chapter titles are defined at the end of each chapter.

One way to quickly find where an important section ends, and the next one starts, is to look for the double shah endings. You could see them on the third line.

Secondly if you go backwards from this, it says le'u dang po'o. le'u means chapter, and dang po means first. So this has to do with the first chapter.

ste is a connecting particle, so it connects the first chapter with somehing to the left.

zhes bya ba means known as, or the title. Ok, we are getting somewhere!

byang chub sems is bodhichitta, kyi binds this with the next to the right, phan yon is benefits.

bshad pa is explanations.

So we got the chapter title translated: The first chapter's title is explaining the benefits of bodhichitta. You could do similar searches in the rest of the text and find the other chapters, as well as the titles for each chapter.

The first line is the title of the text -- that we have gone through -- and the last word on the first line is the particle las, from.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bodhisattva Way Of Life - Verses

After the homage the actual verses start. Notice that we don't have titles telling that this is the first chapter, or who the author was -- more about this in later postings.

The verses are typically based on a shloka that has four lines (padas). The other way to break down the verses is to find out that the last word usually is an ending verb such as bya (to do), and not a binding particle, or something that implies that the next line is connected with the current line. But just now it's easy to just take four lines, make sure the last word makes sense as an ending word, and this way break down the text in order to see how various translators have translated it.

We will not translate this verse, the best is to look at existing translations such as Alex Berzin's online version to see how the verses are translated. Okey, here's that translation of the first shloka!

(1) Respectfully, I prostrate to the Blissfully Gone (Buddhas) endowed with Dharmakaya,
As well as to their (bodhisattva) offspring and to everyone worthy of prostration.
Let me explain (how to) engage in the Blissfully Gone offsprings' code,
Which I’ve compiled and condensed in accord with Buddhas’ words.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bodhisattva Way Of Life - Homage

Next is the homage, this is a classification system ordered by the Tibetan king Ralpachen long time ago, a way to define the classification of the text that is translated or composed. This text belongs to the sutra basket (sutra-pitaka) so the homage is to Buddhas and bodhisattvas. The reason is that Buddha taught sutra as a question and answer session with bodhisattvas!

The other reason writers pay homage in the beginning is to ensure that they could complete the text without obstacles.

sangs rgyas is buddhas -- note again that there's no plural but later you will see why this is plural.
dang is the binding particle.
byang chub sems dpa' is bodhisattvas.
thams cad is all, so this is where the plural came fom.
la is the oblique particle, pointing at something from the right to the left.
phyag 'tshal is to pay homage, prostrate, relate to something, requesting the same realizations and qualities as the object one is prostrating towards, getting inspiration. As this is here a complete sentence, the verb is ended with a lo.

Parts of Khenpo Kunpal's excellent commentary of this text, translated by Andreas Kretschmar, is available here. Especially the introduction is fascinating, it goes through the history and lineages of various presentations of Bodhisattva Way of Life in India and Tibet.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bodhisattva Way Of Life - Tibetan Title

After the Sanskrit (original title) we have the Tibetan title. bod is Tibet, sometimes it's also central Tibet -- Tibet is a very big area, with borderlines where other kingdoms or countries take over, but the population still speaks Tibetan -- as an example there's Mustang and similar areas in northern Nepal.

We learned earlier what skad means, language. So bod skad du is: In Tibetan.

We also went through the title earlier.

This title is very long, even for Tibetans, so they have a nick-name for the text: spyod 'jug.

Bodhisattva Way Of Life - Sanskrit Title

Next in the opening lines is the title in Sanskrit. rgya gar is India, skad is language, and rgya gar skad du is in the language of India. Now, in the Mahayana tradition, all commentaries were written in Sanskrit, so it's better to translate this all: In Sanskrit.

Next is the Sanskrit title written with Tibetan letters. The reason this entry is so late was that I took me a long time to find the right tools to get the right conversions and stackings (UDP was the only tool that worked here, and it only runs with Windows, and using Windows is another challenge).

You could see the stacking such as the first word, bodhi, where the dh is stacked, this is not common in the Tibetan language. Same with the next part, satva.

Then there is tsa rya (I though it was cha rya, but I checked an original Tibetan text, and it's a tsa there.... OK). Finally we have abataara, but the ba is really a pronounced wa, so it's awataara. Note the snippet below the ta to make the ta letter a long wovel. In Tibetan there are few if any long vowels, while those are common in Sanskrit -- hence the use of the small stroke at the bottom of the letter to indicate this.

So we have the title, bodhisatvatsaryavataara. Expect interesting letter combinations with Sanskrit titles, names, and also mantras that are mostly in Sanskrit.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bodhisattva Way of Life - Title

Let's start looking at Shantideva's text Bodhisattva Way of Life -- In Tibetan -- so you learn how to navigate around this text. You could always download the Tibetan version from ACIP, and look at the online translation by Alex Berzin.

The first sentence is the title of the text, this is usually on the first page as a separate pecha page, framed, and has illustrations such as a buddha figure and the author on each side.

It is easy to recognize the title, it ends with the verb bshugs so. bzhugs so means herein contains. This is a complete sentence, so the verb bzhugs ends with a so.

It is good to continue reading this opening line backwards; 'jug pa means to enter. nyid here means the very. spyod pa means the engage, engagement, or the way.

byang chub sems dpa is bodhisattva, notice the ending 'i which is a genitive particle that binds the right side to the left side. So it is the way of the bodhisattva.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Engaged Bodhichitta Verse - Translation

Here's the translation of this famous 55:th verse from the tenth chapter of Shantideva's Bodhisattva way of life. I'm using the translation by Alex Berzin:

(55) For as long as space remains,
And for as long as wandering beings remain,
May I too remain for that long,
Dispelling the sufferings of wandering beings.

You could actually take this translation -- or any of the other ones -- and compare it with the actual Tibetan text, for example the version available from ACIP.

We will actually look through this text next, so you will learn how to navigate around it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Engaged Bodhichitta Verse - Part 4

'gro ba, as mentioned before, is sentient beings. Note this ends with a genitive particle, gro ba'i, so you need to connect the next to the right to the left.

sdug bsngal is suffering.

sel ba is to purify, to dispel. There's another particle in here, sel bar, the r at the end. This is a sub-ordination particle, it establishes a hierarchy or relationship between the right and the left side. A quick word to substitute this particle is as.

shog is a typical word that ends verses and sentences, may it be so, to use a term from Captain Picard. As mentioned in the first posting, there's no need to make a final shah (like the one in the beginning of the sentence), as the ga letter has a long stroke at the end.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Engaged Bodhichitta Verse - Part 3

This is the third verse.

de srid means until then.

bdag is me.

ni is an empthatic particle, it binds the right side to follow with the first part, de srid bdag. Again, this is verse, this particle is not needed, but you need those seven syllables...

gnas is again to abide, in short format (gnas pa).

gyur nas is having become, or from becoming, this is a little bit constructed, gyur is become, a very common word, good to learn. nas is a location particle, from, in the context of a known place or thing something comes from (otherwise the particle is las). Anyway, in this case it's a so called gerund with the combination of a verb and nas (becoming).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Engaged Bodhichitta Verse - Part 2

This is the second verse. 'gro ba means sentient beings. Note that you need to figure out that this is plural, not just one single sentient being. Depending on the verse format -- here seven syllables -- sometimes plural is indicated, sometimes not. All this just to fit into the format.

'gro, by the way, means to walk, to move, so the meaning behind 'gro ba is a being that moves, in other worlds, migrates from one state to another in samsara.

ji srid, as in the first verse, is as long as.

means to abide, in this case it's the shortened form of gnas pa. gnas itself could mean location, place, and so forth.

gyur pa
is a past tense, became.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Engaged Bodhichitta Verse - Part 1

Verses usually have a shah, long line, at the beginning and end, the exception are words ending with the letter ga, where ga already has a long line, so it's not needed.

ji srid is as long as.

nam mkha' is space.

gnas pa is reside, or to remain.

dang at the end indicates that this verse is to be combined with the next verse, so let's use the common translation and here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Engaged Bodhichitta Verse - Introduction

Next, let's take a verse from Shantideva's Bodhisattva Way of Life that HH Dalai Lama is very fond of, and is often quoting. This has to do with the mind of enlightenment, or byang chub kyi sems, bodhichitta.

There are actually two forms of byang chub kyi sems, the first one is smon pa'i byang chub kyi sems, aspirational bodhichitta. This form is agreeing and supporting the ideals of benefiting all sentient beings -- in other words, you like the concept, and support it. smon pa means aspiration.

The other form is 'jug pa'i byang chub kyi sems - engaged bodhichitta. The person is actually working each moment with the bodhisattva ideal, benefiting all sentient beings. 'jug pa means to engage.

The four verses will be presented as four entries, with just the word translations explained, and it will be your job to figure out the translation. The full translation of all four verses will be given at the end.

PS: Here's the full Shantideva Bodhisattva Way of Life text from ACIP.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

rdzogs chen

rdzogs chen is another famous teaching presentation, this time from the Nyingma tradition. The full term is actually rdzogs pa chen po, in Sanskrit mahasandhi. This is the highest teaching presented in the Nyingma Tibetan tradition. It has to do with the view of an enlightened being, free from any conceptualizations and distractions. You could read more about it in this article at dharmadictionary.

rdzogs means perfect, complete, so this is the Great Perfection in case you want a translation of rdzogs chen.

rnying ma is the Old tradition, rnying means old. This was the first wave of Buddhist teachings that arrived to Tibet. The second wave appeared later, these are the newer schools -- Kadampas, Gelug, Sakya, Kagye: gsar ma. gsar means new. So now you have a way to remember old and new.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

phyag rgya chen po - Mahamudra

To continue presenting key teachings from various lineages, phag rgya chen po is actually more known here in the West with the Sanskrit name, mahamudra. It means great seal, maha is great, in Tibetan chen po. phyag rgya means seal, in Sanskrit mudra. A hand position in tantric practices is also a mudra. Sometimes this term is also called phyag chen.

To understand the meaning, for example, if a king would decree an edict, he or she would use the great seal to stamp this, so people in the kingdom would know that it was originate from the true source.

There are many forms of mahamudra, of which one presentation is the emptiness of the mind and phenomena, this is what seals reality.

The phyag rgya chen po teachings mostly originated from the Kagyu tradition, and they are also present in the Gelug and Sakya traditions. bka' brgyud (Kagyu) is an interesting word, indeed, bka' means the words of the Buddha, and brgyud means transmission.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

lam 'bras

Another term, from the Sakya tradition, is lam 'bras, path and result. This teaching system preceeded the Gelug tradition's lam rim, and is based on both a sutra and tantra section.

lam as was mentioned earlier is path, and 'bras means result or fruit. Fruit is sometimes used as a way to express a result. However, in this case there's no hidden genitive particle, it is stages and results. Each stage provides a specific result. This practice is much related to the model of a pracitioner getting experiences along the path (the lam rim model is based on defining the foundation for practices).

A key concept in lam 'bras is the snang gsum, the three visions: sentient beings have impure visions, enlightened beings have pure visions, and the practitioner on the path will get a taste of the pure vision by experience. If you want to read more about this, you could read Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrup's Lamdre commentary called "The Three Levels of Spiritual Perception". You could even order the Tibetan text from TBRC and compare the translation, if you are interested.

sa skya, by the way, means grey earth, sa means earth, skya means gray. It's the location of the area where the first Sakya temple was built by the Khon family. Read this dharmadictionary entry in case you are more interested in the history of the Sakya tradition, it also has links to various Sakya masters and texts, and it's an ongoing project (of mine) to expand it over time.

lam rim - Stages of the Path

Many, especially in the Gelug tradition, has heard the term lam rim, stages of the path. This word is good to understand, of many reasons. First, lam is path, and rim is stage, so you saw that the way we translate it in the west it looks odd... Also, a better word is really rim pa, stage, even if rim is also fine.

Secondly, it's a good example how in Tibetan it is common to shorten terms, titles, and so on. It should really be lam gyi rim, with the gyi particle, genitive, between. Now if you read this from right to left, using the genitive particle that is hidden between, it is indeed stages of the path. So that explained the mystery.

To be more exact, there are many stages, and many paths, so maybe this should even include plural: lam rnams gyi rim rnams. Again, it's a good example of how even plural definitions are sometimes omitted to make terms and so forth shorter. It's tough to carve wood blocks for printing, that's my speculation.

As for lam rim, it has three main parts, practices for the lowest practitioners, practices for the medium level practitioners, and practices for the highest level of practitioners. You could also divide it into nges 'byung (renunciation), byang chub kyi sems (bodhichitta), and stong pa nyid (emptiness) sections.

Table of Contents

The table of contents contains all entries up to January 2006. It will be displayed as a link in the right side colum on the main blog page. Click on this link from time to time, as the table of contents is constantly updated.

Common Words

Common Verbs
Common Expressions
Dharma Words

Abhidharmakosha - Definition of Karma
Freedom from the Four Attachments:
Text Titles
Tools, Software For Tibetan Language, Unicode, Transliteration
Resources, Texts
General Blog Information

sgrub thabs - Sadhana, Tibetan terms

dharmadictionary.net always surprises me (positively). Erik Schmidt recently listed a page with Tibetan terms related to sadhana practices.

Anyway, sadhana is Sanskrit, in Tibetan it's sgrub thabs, the literal translation is means of accomplishment, you use certain means to accomplish something, and this is usually the practice text.

means to bring about, to produce. thabs is also a very good word to learn, you see it a lot, it means method. So it's a method of bringing something about. You could learn more about these words by following the links back to dharmadictionary, or otherwise do lookups there.

Where to Get Tibetan Texts

There's a new page over at dharmadictionary where we are trying to list places wherefrom to order Tibetan texts, classical Tibetan Buddhist texts, commentaries, and so on.

Feel free to create an account and add more sources if you know of any places, so that others could also know where to find various texts.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

byin brlabs

Another very common dharma word you see a lot in commentaries and verses is byin brlabs. This is commonly translated as blessing, but we will see later how to look at this from a different angle.

You see this in constructs such as requesting the teacher for blessings.

byin means to give, hand over. brlabs is related to waves. So it's a form of receiving waves of something given.

Alex Berzin actually translates byin brlabs as inspiration, we are not requesting something material that we will receive as blessing waves, rather we want to get the inspiration based on our teachers and past teachers. We want to achieve the same levels as them, and this inspires us.

I personally like this translation more, as it... inspires me.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

byams dang snying rje

Next two words related to love and compassion. byams is love, maitri in Sanskrit. snying rje is compassion, karuna in Sanskrit.

The difference is that byams is feeling happy about others, sentient beings, and wish them all the good. snying rje is feeling compassionate about others, sentient beings, and wish them to be free from any sufferings.

This is where two famous bodhisattvas have their names from, Maitreya, is byams pa, the Loving One. Avalokiteshvara has many names in Tibetan, of which one is snying rje'i lha, Lord of Compassion.

To conclude, these two are also part of the four immeasurables, tshad med bzhi: byams pa, snying rje, and also dga' ba, sympathetic joy (in Sanskrit mudita), and btang snyoms, equanimity (in Sanskrit upeksha).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

shes yon shes rab ye shes - Wisdom

Let's look at some of the words translated as wisdom. In Sanskrit, and Tibetan, there are many different words for wisdom, unlike in our society...

Anyway, shes yon is knowledge, education.

shes rab is transcendental wisdom, in Sanskrit prajna, the wisdom that bodhisattvas practice, direct understanding of emptiness, in order to become Buddhas. I like the word transcendental (heard Jay Goldberg use this term this weekend a lot when he translated), as it has a connotation of transcending mundane wisdom and knowledge. It will transcend someone into Buddhahood.

ye shes is primordial wisdom, in Sanskrit jnana, this is the constant mode of an enlightened mind, they dwell in this natural wisdom state. Again, I like the word primordial in this case, as it's really the natural state of mind, obscured in sentient beings. Other translators might have a different spin on this all -- but it's important, at least in my view, to not use the word wisdom everywhere. As you saw there could be different translations involved with the text, and the original word used.

You might have noticed the root shes in all these three words, shes means to know.

sgom pa

The word meditation itself, in Tibetan, is sgom pa, bhavana in Sanskrit. The verb sgom actually means to cultivate, habitate, so it's related to cultivating various objects in the mind.

sgom is a typical example of a Tibetan verb that has different forms based on present, past, future and imperative:

present - sgom
past - bsgoms
future - bsgom
imperative - sgoms

This word should not be confused with dgon pa, meditation hall, monastery, even if the pronunciation is the same.

Monday, July 10, 2006

lhag mthong

lhag mthong is special insight, vipashyana in Sanskrit. This is the goal of Buddhist zhi gnas, first you still the mind, and train it to focus on an object single-pointedly, ting nge 'dzin. After this you focus your mind on lhag mthong, unraveling how reality really works. In the Buddhist system it has to do with emptiness, stong pa nyid, how to find out how things do not exist from their own side, but they exist dependently.

Now, many commentaries tells to alternate between zhi gnas and lhag mthong, if one focuses too much one either one, the mind could get tired or agitated. One needs to avoid these two dangers of meditation.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

ting nge 'dzin

Next meditation term is ting nge 'dzin, in sanskrit samadhi. It has been translated with many English terms, single-pointed concentration, meditative absorbtion, and so forth.

The main concept is that the mind could hold on and examine one single object as long as it wishes, without waivering, tiredness. This is needed when examining ultimate objects, such as emptiness.

'dzin is a good word to learn, you see this a lot, means to hold, grasp to something. ting gne means clearly, deeply.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

zhi gnas

Let's go through a couple of meditation terms. zhi gnas is in Sanskrit Shamatah, the English translations are: calming the mind, calm abiding, tranquility.

To understand the translation, zhi means peace, and gnas means to stay. In other words, the mind stays peacefully in one place, one object. A non-trained mind, yul can, is bouncing between many, many objects, yul rnams, over and over again, never resting down and holding one single object, yul, for a long time.

The training behind zhi gnas is to get to a point to hold on to one single object for as long as the meditator wants to. This is a practice that is taught in most religions and meditative systems. The aim in a Buddhist training is to use surrogate objects to get to this point, or auspicious symbols such as a Buddha image for more merit generation. Actually one of the most powerful meditation objects is one's own mind, then we are dealing with mahamudra meditation. The nice thing with the mind is that it's always around! However, this is just phase one, phase two next.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

yul dang yul can

yul is the word for object. It could refer to an object in your mind -- the mind, sems, could only hold one principal object in the mind at the time, yul gyi tso bo. yul lnga are the five sense objects that pick up objects from around us: reg bya (touch), dri (smell), ro (taste), sgra (sound), and gzugs (visual forms).

The one that holds to objects, the subject, or owner of objects, is yul can. Note the use can to make a new word, the one that has or owns yul. This is the subjective agent, the perceiver, or the sense faculties.

All the miseries start from the false concept that a self-existent subject could experience self-existent objects -- the nasty driver on the road, the crazy boss, the wild kids... I would recommend watching the Akira Kurosawa movie Rashomon for a good presentation of this false subjectivity.