Thursday, May 31, 2007

Uttaratantra - source of karma and afflictions 2

The last word in the first sentence, kyis, is actually a so called instrumental particle, taking this form as the last syllable before this one is a da. One way to quickly translate this particle is to use the word 'by'.

Anyway, this particle binds from the right to left. Especially this case is very good to learn and know. As it's the last word in the first sentence, it will glue together the second sentence itself with the first sentence. Note that the particles, such as his instrumental particle, do not just bind together two words, there could be whole sentences that are bound together.

So, at this point karma and mental afflictions will arise by... So we need to look at the rest of the first sentence next.

Those learning letters, the last letter in the first sentence is a sa.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Uttaratantra - Source of Karma and Mental Afflictions 1

Here's verse 60 from Uttaratantra, rgyud bla ma, that has a concise description wherefrom las dang nyon mongs (karma and mental afflictions) arise.

We will start from the second line as it's easier to unravel this compressed verse from this end.

And yes, there's that las dang nyon mongs again. You will see this term many, many times in Buddhist texts, as a lot of the material is how to get rid of that plague.

The end has the expression rab tu phye. rab tu is another good word to learn inside out, it means completely, totally. When the Tibetan and Sanskrit scholars translated the Indian texts, they used this word when translating the Sanskrit verbal prefix pra (example: prabhava -> rab tu skye ba, total production, a term actually used when dividing the four noble truths to sixteen parts, hmm, should I go through that later...).

Note also that in verses sometimes words are added in for getting the same syllable account, like here seven syllables. It is actually not necessary to translate rab tu at all in this instance.

The verb phye here means gives rise to. So a rough translation so far is that something in the first line is what totally gives rise to karma and mental afflictions.

Those who study letters, take phye which is the last word one the second line. It's a nice way to see stacking in action. The root letter pha has a line on top changing it to phe, and then a yata at the bottom makes it phye.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Uttaratantra - Verse about sources for suffering

OK, we will go through a very compressed verse from Uttaratantra to find out from where las dang nyon mongs arise, as that's important in order to figure out the second and later third noble truth.

If you have access to the Tibetan text, it's the sixtieth verse, but you could take a look at this online version from Asian Classics Institute. Do a search inside this document, just for fun look through las dang nyon mongs to see where they are used. This way you get more patterns and you get familiar with Tibetan texts. Also, check out the beginning of the text, you should now be able to figure out the title in Tibetan, and most likely in Sanskrit, too.

Now, do a search for TSUL BZHIN MA YIN YID BYED KYIS, and the line below. That's what we will go through next. It will be an interesting puzzle, indeed, as verses are very compressed, and you need to find out the whole meaning by slowly going through the material.

I must say, it's a very beautiful presentation, I've been using various commentaries on Uttaratantra to see how it's presented, and wow it's very to the point, and the rest is also very interesting. You will notice why it's important to get to the root texts via commentaries, otherwise it all sounds strange and confusing. The reason is that texts such as these were tools to be memorized, and by the memorization the meaning was presented, but the meaning had to be shown by a teacher.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Uttaratantra - Part 2

Here's the long title of Uttaratantra, theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma'i bstan bcos.

We know the middle part, rgyud bla ma, from before. So let's fill in the beginning and end parts.

theg pa is vehicle, in Sanskrit yana, and chen po means big, in Sanskrit maha. So theg pa chen po is big vehicle, or Mahayana. There are now all kinds of modern Western translation of this path, such as Universal Responsibility vehicle. This to avoid any misunderstandings between a great vehicle and a lesser vehicle.

bstan is teaching, or past tense taught verb. Another good word to learn inside out, you will encounter it a lot in Buddhist teachings, of course!

bcos is make, prepare. Anyway, the combinational word bstan bcos is treatise, in Sanskrit shastra. And here's my pet issue about pronouncing Sanskrit, if this is pronounced (with a long a) it is the right word, if short a, shastra, it means weapon. Huh! This is the reason sometimes Sanskrit is written as shāstra to emphasize this difference. This is true of many other words, so if you want to accurately recite mantras, check out the original spelling, as sometimes the mantras are just written out in plain English letters -- not displaying long vowel sounds...

Anyway, back to the title, so the full translation is something like A Treatise on the Higher Mind Continuum of the Universal Responsibility Vehicle. Note that the easiest is to start from the end and go backwards when translating such titles.

Anyway, as mentioned before, this treatise is really about how Buddhas operate, what is means to be enlightened, and now it is possible to get there.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Uttaratantra - Part 1

Maitreya gave Asanga five texts to be provided to others, of which one of the more known ones is in Sanskit Uttaratantra.

The Tibetan short name for this is rgyud bla ma (we will go through the long title next). The reason we are looking into this text is that we want to know the reason behind suffering, i.e. what triggers las dang nyong mongs (karma and mental afflictions), of which this text gives a concise explanation.

There are many, many translations of just the title itself, even misunderstandings of a big scale, so let's analyse the parts.

Uttara in Sanskrit is highest, in Tibetan this is also bla ma. Some might know that bla ma is lama, spiritual teacher, but this could also be used in this highest, elevated form.

tantra in Sanskrit is stream, continuum, or something that is woven together. In Tibetan this is rgyud. Now, some might also know that this is the translation for Tantra. But in this context it is not. This text is not, I repeat, not a Tantric text. It belongs to the general Sutra collection (to be clear, Tantra is a section of Sutra, the highest form in the Indian Mahayana tradition). *)

So this title is referring to a higher state of continuum, a subtler stream, a supreme way of a mind's experience. Hence there are so many Western titles concerning this text. Ultimately, what this text is describing is the so called Buddha nature, what is it really to be an enlightened being.

Next the long title, it's good to see how those look like!

*)The reader might now find out what Tantric practices are really about - weaving together enlightened activities during a daily life.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Maitreya and Asanga

There are many ways to describe the causes of suffering, of different levels for different kinds of practitioners or personalities. But as Tibetan Buddhism is based on the Mahayana tradition, let's take this explanation. The following six step presentation will cover many entries, but to start with let's introduce the sources.

This presentation was given by byams pa, Maitreya.

In the Buddhist tradition, byams pa is a soon to become enlightened being (Buddha). byams also means love. It's pronounced Jampa, hence why many Tibetan monks have this auspicious name.

byams pa gave this teaching to thogs med, Asanga, an important Buddhist teacher who lived around 300 CE. thogs med means unhindered.

Next the name of the text, it's a mouth full!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

sems - mind

As I mentioned earlier, I will try to go through simple words and repeat now and then, as new blog readers will show up, and it's good to cover all cases. Earlier we looked through the causes, rgyu, for lam dang nyong mongs, karma and mental afflictions.

Well, it is to be found in sems, mind, Sanskrit citta. This is another reason for Buddhists to be called nang pa, those who go inside rather than outside. Or, as I like to think of it, Buddhism is mind science.

This word is good to learn, it again shows up over and over again in the literature.

Those studying Tibetan letters, the first letter is a sa, but the line above makes the syllable to se, and there's a ma, and finally a lonely sa that is nowadays not pronounced so the word sounds like sem.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

las dang nyon mongs - karma and mental afflictions

There are many ways to define the sources of suffering, but one way is to state it as las dang nyon mongs, karma and mental afflictions. We have talked about las before, but let's look at nyon mongs, klesha in Sanskrit, a very interesting word.

I was going to go through it, and through a Google search found this illuminating article about translating it over at Lotsawa House, so I will let them do the nice talking. It's nice to share knowledge, anyway.

For those studying basic grammar, the binding word dang is sometimes like and, but it's more strict in the sense of binding right side with the left.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

rgyu - cause

Another word that might show up when studying about the causes of suffering is rgyu, or cause. Note that depending on the translation it could be singular, or plural in case the part of the causes is directly omitted.

As an example, let's take 'khor ba'i rgyu, causes of samsara. 'khor ba is samsara, or the wheel (of cyclic existence). Note again that it's not clear from the Tibetan that the causes are plural, but there are many causes to samsara, actually in the Mahayana tradition it could be distilled into one big cause -- but more about that later. Anyway, as a translator one needs to think about the expression and translate in case the definition requires plural or singular. This is why it's so important not just to learn words, also learn inside out the topic in order to make an accurate translation, or as close as possible.

For those studying Tibetan letters, that funny short thing on top of the bigger stack is ra, but in that short form when stacked. This is also a good example where you have four letters stacked on top of each other -- a pain for anyone designing computer fonts and text systems. But it's so cool!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Four Noble Truths - Second Truth

The second truth is kun 'byung, the source of suffering, in Sanskrit samudaya. kun is good to know, it is used a lot, means all, entire, everything, and it's a shorter form of kun tu. 'byung is arise, happen, befall, emerge, so this is related to everything that arises.

So far that makes sense, if everything in samsaric existence is really suffering, then it's good to know the source of suffering. To start with, there has to be a reason, it can't be just randomness, hockus pockus, and so on. If we figure out the source of suffering, we have a chance to remove it.

You studying letters, the first kun is a good one to recognize, the first letter is ka with a sign at the bottom turning the letter to ku, and the second letter is na, but as it's at the end of the syllable, it's just the n itself.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Four Noble Truths - Suffering 4

The third kind of suffering is 'du byed kyi sdug bsngal, the all-persistent suffering. 'du byed is formations, compositional factors, Sanskrit samskara. This is the samsaric environment where everything is conditioned due to mental formations.

The genitive here is kyi, as the first word ends with da, then the genitive particle takes this form.

This is a form of suffering, subtle, but still very active, the constant fear behind desire, hate and ignorance. It's built into samsara, anyone in the samsaric cycle can't escape it. It is even the basis for the other two sufferings we encounter earlier. This suffering is created by not understanding reality, that good produces good, and bad produces bad. To understand this is a big step to get out from all the sufferings.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Four Noble Truths - Suffering 3

The second type of suffering is also easy to recognize, 'gyur ba'i sdug bsngal, the suffering of change. 'gyur ba is change, from the root verb 'gyur, become, and the ba is used to make a verb to an attribute. 'gyur is a very, very common verb, good to learn, but if you know the term of this second kind of suffering, you know it now!

The genitive particle here is the 'i as part of ba'i, as the last syllable is a vowel, then the genitive is an 'i. Again, remember to find the genitive from right to the left. Those who learn letters, this is the same as the first letter in this term.

As for suffering of change, here are some contemporary examples: you buy a brand new car and get nervous about it when it starts to have scratches and tear. Or, a relationship that should always be the same, like always being in perfect love, something that is the naive assumption and then when the relationship changes over time, suffering happens.

This is also another nice way to get realizations of dependent co-emergence. There are few cases that do not change in Buddhism, fortunately stopping suffering is doable (more about that later). Other examples of non-changing things is deep realizations, such as experiencing emptiness directly, and full enlightenment. These are non-changing from the point of view that they don't reverse. However, an enlightened mind is constantly changing, of course.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Four Noble Truths - Suffering 2

sdug bsngal, suffering, is by the way dukkha in Sanskrit. There are three basic ones, of which this one is the first one, sdug bsngal gi sdug bsngal, suffering of suffering.
This is the normal suffering, pain, headaches, stiff back, bad teeth, and so on. If someone has a samsaric body, one gets samsaric sufferings, that's for sure.

This is also a good grammar lesson, the middle particle, gi, is a genitive particle, it binds the right side element with the left one, with grammar particles, usually look from the right to the left. Here it does not really matter, but with other constructs it's good to make the right to left binding, otherwise the translation is wrong.

Also note that the grammar particle differs based on the last syllable in the first word, as it's la, the binding grammar particle takes the form of gi.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Four Noble Truths - sdug bsngal

The first noble truth to be accepted as a truth is sdug bsngal, suffering. It should not be so hard to accept that suffering exists in this world, in one's own life. Not accepting this truth would mean that the first of the Four Noble truths are not accepted, i.e. the Four Noble Truths are not accepted at all.

This word sdug bsngal also has some suffering for anyone reading old Tibetan texts. Notice how -- depending on the font or the smearing in the text -- the first d in sdug and the nga in bsngal could easily be mixed up as either one. You just need to learn the patterns of words, so when you see this pattern, you know it is indeed sdug bsngal. It is also a very, very common word in Tibetan Buddhist texts, of an obvious reason -- the whole idea is to get rid of all sufferings, for everyone.

By the way, sdug also means suffering (shorter form), and bsngal means pain. So a more complete translation of this term would mean suffering and pain, with the implication that there exist all kinds of sufferings, from ordinary pain up to more complex levels. So we will go through that next.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Four Noble Truths - Part 2

To continue, the beginning of this term is 'phags pa, noble one, or Arya. These are anyone who has experienced reality directly as it is, or seen emptiness. The 'i after this and before bden pa is a genitive particle, so this binds together bden pa (truth) and 'phags pa (Arya). So this becomes The Arya Truth, or The Noble Truth.

Note again that the emphasis is not on noble, rather on those who have experienced emptiness directly. After this experience one is directly experiencing the these four truths one at a time, hence the naming.

Anyway, in Western literature we are stuck with the Four Noble Truths, they are noble, but the noble part is that the Aryas experience them directly, while others need to analyze them and accept them based on logic and intelligence.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Four Noble Truths - Part 1

In other to understand who someone is proclaimed a nang pa, insider, or Buddhist, one needs to analyze and personally accept the so called Four Noble Truths, 'phags pa'i bden pa bzhi. To make this clear, one way to look at the word nang pa is that such a person is looking at reality and explanations inside oneself, not outside.

Let's go through this definition slowly, one part at at time. As mentioned before, one good trick to translated Tibetan terms is to go backwards, as the chain of logic concerning one part pointing to another is from right to left, not left to right as we are used to.

The last word here is bzhi, number four. Just before that is bden pa, truth, so the combination bden pa bzhi is four truths. Anyway, this is just half of the story, more later!

Meanwhile, if you want to learn letters, write this construct over and over on a piece of paper.

Monday, May 14, 2007

nang pa

To start with the classification of sa lam, we need to learn more about practitioner types. And the first is of course to have a word for those who are inside, on the lam (path).

This is the Tibetan word nang pa. nang means inside, and the pa is used to make a noun from a qualification, so it becomes insider. This is one of the words for Buddhist.

This is another excellent word for learning the letters na, nga and pa.

Next we need to know what makes someone a nang pa.

Friday, May 11, 2007

sa lam - Stages and Paths

What we will actually go through in the next blog postings is called sa lam - stages and paths. Each lam (path) has certain threshold points the practitioner reaches, sa, or stages, or grounds. To understand those is like the GPS system of the practitioner, one could adjust and move on to the the next sa.

sa is a very common words, it also means earth, or the earth element, as well as the letter sa. This is where you need to look at the translation context and figure out that sa here is in a medical text so it's about the earth element, while here it is about sa lam.

Sa is also an easy letter to learn -- write a couple of pages with this letter.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

lam nga - Five Paths

Let's start by going through the whole practice path of someone from beginning to full enlightenment. It's very well mapped in the Buddhist system, so someone could figure out where they are at a certain point of time.

The common definition are the five paths, lam lnga. lam means path, and lnga is number five.

Depending on the various types of practitioners, the five paths -- lam lnga - could have different kinds of attainments.

For you who are new, the first word lam has two letters, la and ma, so it's easy to see it. The second one has the first letter la stacked on top of the letter nga. As mentioned before, one quick way to learn the alphabet is to write words over and over again on a paper, or what I did long time ago, on a whiteboard in my office (so some engineers were really confused about my scribbling on the whiteboard!).

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tool for Building Books - Cheap Impostor

This is not about Tibetan, but it's a nice MacOSX application in case you want to print out texts and bind them to soft-cover books. Here's the link to Cheap Impostor.

More and more Tibetan texts are nowadays published in book format. I personally like the anciend 'palm leaf' format of loose pages, it's handy when doing retreats and practices. But for taking texts along, it is a little bit more work. Anyway, there's something special about carrying around pechas. Books are fine, too. Nowadays you could even download tons of texts into USB memory sticks and always carry them with you -- very special karma comes from that.

Search Box Now Available

I just added (back I think) the search box to the blog. This means you could do arbitrary searches across the blog entries or over any web pages out there, and let Google find the entries for you. There is a search box above, as well, but this one will work across the web in case you want to. I might soon also put in other specific places to search from, of which Dharmadictionary is the first obvious choice.

Just note that sometimes you need to put any Tibetan Wylie in quotation, compared snying po and "snying po". Both will work, but the first one will find pages with snying and po, while the other will find the actual word, snying po. This as there are so many words in Tibetan ending with ba/bo/pa/po/mo.

This is good to know in any case, if you search for Tibetan words using Google and other web search services.

I will go back and add new entries soon, most likely a set of dharma terms, as for translators knowing dharma terms inside out is important. The posts will be shorter, as well (means more postings per month, hopefully).

PS: Use web searches for various words in this blog, and you will get tons of additional reference material and examples where the word is used.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Added Labels to All the Posting

I just added labels to every earlier posting, you could see them in the right side column.

To go through the earlier material, either you could go through it in the posting order using the archives, or look at various entries using the labels. I will add more creative table of contents listings in future, too.

I also changed the look and feel of the blog.