Monday, May 29, 2006

rigs brgya

Here's an interesting one I saw today. I was looking through some text material I'm translating and saw many rigs brgya. Oh, I though, the hundred Buddha families. brgya is 100 and rigs is a family or a higher level scope of belonging, such as the common Buddha family connotation.

However, rigs has other translations, too, it could mean category, or group, so in this case it was actually why certain parts could be all together 100.

It's always good to look through the context of the sentence to figure out the correct translation.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Zhangtal web site with translations

Zangthal is a very nice web site with translations of Tibetan texts from Karen Liljeberg. She gives out all her material for free. The PDF files also have the Tibetan, so you could learn by reading her translations. Nice!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Back to Basics Part 5

Next it is good to learn a lot of small words and sentences that are very common in commentaries and similar texts. Here are some, but the best way to find them is to go through translated material over and over again, and start seeing the patterns of the most common expressions and words.

de yang is furthermore. lta bu is like that, la sogs pa is and so on. There are variations of these, as well. Again, the best is to use statistics and go through translated material, and the most common phrases will naturally bubble up. And when you learn those, suddenly a lot of the sentence material makes sense.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Back To Basics Part 4

Next is learning a bigger and bigger vocabulary of words. Sometimes the wood carvings are not that easy to understand, and you need to sort out even possible missing strokes of words to figure out what is really there. or then there's the classical issue of the nga versus da letters.

Here's an example, sngo ba or sdo ba? sngo ba means becoming greenish, green tingled, or even blue in some cases. sdo ba means compare, rival, compete, exchange, or risk. So you need to find out the right translation in case it's hard to see the difference between letters. Sometimes there's not even such a word in Tibetan with either letter used.

It's good to invest in a good dictionary, of which electronic dictionaries are the fastest ones to be used when translating. Over time you also start learning the words and know exactly what word was used in a specific sentence.

Monday, May 08, 2006

More Quotes

I just added the Freedom from the Four Attachments Tibetan Lo Jong quote to the dharmadictionary, so anyone interested to see how it's put together, click on the Tibetan words and see the entries in the dictionary. From now I will add more quotes into the quote database in this format, so anyone who wants to learn could quickly see how the quotes are translated.

Back to Basics Part 3

Next when looking at the basic learning of Classical Tibetan is to recognize the particles that bind together constructs. The first one that is easy to learn is the genitive. Remember that particles bind from the right to the left, so you need to reverse the word order. Also, the particles take different forms based on the last syllable, so you need to learn how they look like. Going back to the genitive:

The genitive takes the form of kyi if the first word ends with da, ba or sa. Here, chos kyi stobs, the power of dharma.

The genitive takes the form of gyi after ending na, ma, ra or la. Here: gser gyi rdo rje, the golden vajra.

The genitive is a 'i after any vowel, here, bla ma'i bkha', the instructions (or words) of the lama.

This form of yi is ancient, and usually used in verses, as here: ri yi rgyal po, King of Mountains (Mount Meru).

Note that sometimes the genitive even binds together complete sentences, so you need to box the constructs in to see the left and right side.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Definition of Abharma Quote

See this dharmadictionary page I just created that has the definition of Abhidharma by Vasubandhu, from Abhidharma Kosha. I added links of the Tibetan words to the dictionary, so you could follow along this short one-liner and learn new words, and other Abhidharma terms.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Interview with Adam Pearcey of the Wu Tai Shan

Here's a really good interview with Adam Pearcey of the Wu Tai Shan. He has many good points worth thinking about.

You should also read the lotsawaworld blog, and check the lotsawahouse web site, has translations and Tibetan texts.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Back to Basics Part 2

Ok, after learning the letters and how to separate words, the next step is to see the sentence patterns. Learn the basic structure of subject - object - verb. First find the subject in the beginning of the sentence, then hunt for the first verb, and then (usually) go backwards and find various attributes such as objects, and supplements to the subject and object.

Then learn what is sometimes called particles (you will notice after a while that there's no common definitions for the Tibetan grammar). With particles we mean tiny words that bind together two parts -- and most importantly it happens from right to left.

Here's an example, sangs rgyas kyis chos bstan.
The subject is sangs rgyas, Buddha.
Go after the verb, ok, bstan, taught.
Go backwards, chos, object, dharma.
Then you see the particle, kyis, Instrumental, by. Glue together the right side with the left side, dharma by Buddha.
Puzzle it all together: Dharma was taught by the Buddha.
Rewrite it so it sounds easier to read: Buddha taught the dharma.

Bonus: Think of using English words in case you are addressing an audience that don't know the Sanskrit word Dharma: Buddha taught the doctrine.


One way to learn more how translations are done is to study various quotations.

Now, over at there's a new section for quotations. Some of us have uploaded various quotations, and there's more in the pipeline. Furthermore, we will try to link the various words and constructs back to the actual Tibetan dictionary itself, so you could easily puzzle together how the translation was done.

I will try to upload a couple of mor quotations this weekend, and more along the way, so check out this place from time to time -- I like doing multitasking, i.e. this way it serves multiple purposes.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Back to Basics Part 1

Ok, in case there are those very new to Classical Tibetan, let's start with introduction information. Repetition does neither hurt. Here are some basic guidelines how to learn Classical Tibetan.

  • Learn the letters. Spend time understanding them, and how they are drawn. Use a notebook, a whiteboard, or pieces of paper, and draw the letters over and over again until they are etched into your mind. There's another deeper meaning why the images of the letters are good to recognize over and over
  • Learn where words start and end. Tibetan is a language where there's no notation where a word ends, so you need to see patterns, such as པ pa,པོ po, མ ma, མོ mo, བ ba, བོ bo and similar things that naturally separates words, or particles that separate parts from each other.
  • Learn one at at time the most common words, subjects, verbs, adverbs and so on. Again, use your notebook, whiteboard, or something else to draw down words and see them over and over again.
  • There's no need to directly learn how to pronounce the words, unless you want to do a parallel track to learn to translate verbal communication. If this is the case, I strongly recommend to spend time inside a Tibetan community or something similar where you hear the language each and every day. But for translating classical texts, it's Ok if you have a rough idea how to pronounce them -- remember that there are many Tibetan dialects so even if you know one, it does not mean that you understand them all.