Saturday, June 30, 2007

Status - Vacation

Ok, I'm off for a vacation and will be back July 19th. I think I will have Internet access where I'm staying, but not every day, so apologies if no postings each and every day. Meanwhile, if you are new to this blog, just check the 250+ postings available.

As for what's next. We will spend a little bit more with the Abhidharma terminology. Also, Lama Zopa Rinpoche just posted an email about keeping the ten non-virtues, so it's good to go through the Tibetan terms concerning these ten easy ways to avoid bad las.

Yes, we will eventually get back the Third Noble truth, that's for sure!

Friday, June 29, 2007

lha - Gods

Ok, we encountered this word earlier, as lha ma yin, but here it is lha, gods, devas in Sanskrit. Sometimes these two groups are combined, so it's only five realms of existence. In the Wheel of Life this group is usually at the top, with gods and goddesses playing instruments and otherwise be in a pleasant state of mind.

The las to get to experience this realm is extremely good deeds in the past, but still las created with 'dzin pa. Very few experience this realm, and those who do, think this is indeed heaven, until the causes for this experience to continue wears off. And as the beings have not exactly created new positive las, they drop down to really bad realms of experience. Needless to say, it is seldom lha practice dharma, as they don't exactly suffer.

Yes, Buddhism accepts gods, note lowercase and plural. It's just that even gods are trapped in samsara, and they have not created the realms -- las does that. Any powerful being could be considered a lha by someone who does not have similar powers, that's all.

For those studying letters, this is a good example of a la that is stacked on top of a ha. Lha sa, by the way, is translated as the place of gods (sa - ground, place). So that should be an easy word to remember!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

lha ma yin - Demigods

Next in the group of six realms in the Wheel of life is lha ma yin, asura, or usually translated to English as demigods. This is actually another good word to analyze, to find out how it's built.

No, this is not lha ma, it's first lha, god, and ma yin, is not, or roughly translated, a god, nope.

In the wheel of life these are usually presented somewhere below the top, close to a big tree. The tree has to do with the description of the lha ma yin battling about the tree, where the riches are above, but they want it themselves, so they get into war with the beings above.

The reason to be born as a lha ma yin is actually a lot, lot of positive las created. However there's also a huge dose of pride and jealousy generated from past deeds, as well. I'm always myself visualizing these beings as very, very proud warrior-like beings, kind of thinking they are on the top, but not close, so they are jealous about those even higher in rank.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

mi - Humans

Ok, we are now looking at the tiny, tiny section of sentient beings that exist. In that minority, mi is present - humans. Note that you need to look at the context, as mi could also be a negation particle. Usually mi is represented in the Wheel of Life by people working, monks and so on, in the top part of the section with the five or six realms of existence.

mi is an excellent simple word for anyone just starting learning the Tibetan alphabet. The root letter is ma, and that squiggle on top changes the root letter to have an i vowel, as in mi.

The reason to be experience the world as a mi is a mixed blessing, a huge amount of positive las (karma) from past deeds ripen to have the opportunity to be free from very extreme forms of suffering and have some glimpses of happiness and bliss, but bad las also ripen to experience suffering. It's actually a very good situation, by knowing the difference between suffering and not suffering, mi has the choice and insight to change their situation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

dud 'gro - Animals

The next group in the Wheel of Life should neither be hard to find - dud 'gro, animals. This word literally means 'walking bent down', as 'dud means to bow, and 'gro is to walk. Note that this is the Tibetan word for animals. In Buddhist cosmology, a majority of animals reside in the oceans.

The reasons behind experiencing dud 'gro realms has to do with extreme negative las that has been planted, especially in relation to gti mug. As this is still present as bag chags, animals will continue planting more negative las, especially doing acts such as killing leading to even lower realms.

If you have pets, or are around animals, one way is to train them to teach them to avoid doing negative things, such as chasing birds, and try to keep them around auspicious and harmonious symbols, as well as provide as much love as possible so they change their behavior.

dud 'gro, yi dvags, and dmyal ba constitute the absolute, big, huge majority of realms that sentient beings experience. The next realms we will go through belong to a very tiny minority of beings.

Monday, June 25, 2007

yi dvags - Hungry Ghosts

Next it's not hard to find the yi dvags in the wheel of life, pretas in Sanskrit, or hungry ghosts which is one of the most common translations to English. Those are the thin throat and white beings with big bellies.

To end up experiencing this kind of existence has to do with very strong las planted, especially related to 'dod chags.

I personally like a translation like craving spirits more than hungry ghosts. The hunger part is important in their world experience, but it's just all the needs they need, and they can't find it, how hard they try to find. The Tibetans have a nice tradition of blessing food and leaving it outside, with the intention that the yi dvags have a much better chance finding blessed food. Anyone could actually do it.

For those studying letters note the small triangle below da, it's a way to indicate that this word is specific in order to avoid it with other words spelled the same way, in Wylie the va letter is used to indicate this letter, which is called wasur, but has this odd form when placed under the da letter. Anyway, you don't see this often! Anyway, as this stacking is seldom encountered, sometimes some Tibetan input systems can't handle it. In my case I had to switch over to ACIP encoding and convert it to the Tibetan fonts in Jskad before I could get this combination rendered...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

dmyal ba - Hell Realm

Usually the lower part of the Wheel of Life has the section for dmyal ba - hell realm, in Sanskrit naraka, it's not hard to figure out which part of the image describes this realm.

Anyway, there are many presentations of the sufferings experienced in dmyal ba, for example both lam rim and lam 'bras have deep explanations.

Beings who experience such realms have planted many strong negative las (karmas), often associated with zhes sdang.

For Buddhists, there's the notion of making a connection with these beings and understand their sufferings. Bodhisattvas vow to visit dmyal ba and relieve all those suffering there. Also, interestingly enough, according to the tradition Shakyamuni Buddha initially developed true bodhichitta while being in a hell realm and taking over the hard labor of dragging a big cart from a fellow who was totally exhausted.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

'gro ba rigs drug - Six Realms

Next when looking at the Wheel of Life image is six or five areas with beings inside. This describes 'gro ba rigs drug - the six realms, the general classification where non-enlightened beings exist. In Sanskrit this is lokas (plural) Sometimes these are only five parts in the Wheel of Life, but we will present the fifth and sixth at the same time later.

'gro ba is migrating beings; I always liked this Tibetan word, as 'gro is to walk, migrate. So another name for non-enlightened beings are the migrators.

rigs has many translations, see link, but here it means realm. When translating, you need to know the intent or placement of the word, so you know which one to use, as it's very common in Tibetan to have the word explain many various situations.

And drug is of course number 6.

As for the six realms, and we in the West... As you will see, they are very interesting explanations, and one should not just blindly accept it, but neither immediately disapprove it. Giving some examples, the situation in Iraq just now is unfortunately very hellish for those living there, but we might not even know how it feels as we are not there. Also, in the realm of emptiness there are no self-existing limitations! Hey, even the fourth chapter in Abhidharma-kosha immediately starts -- after presenting the six realms in chapter three-- that their basis is karma moving in mind, not a fixed location where beings end up in.

Friday, June 22, 2007

dug sum - three poisons

In the middle of the Wheel of Life are three animals, a cock, a snake, and a pig. These represent the three poisons, or dug gsum. dug is poison, gsum is three.

We have met the three poisons before, see zhe sdang, gti mug, and 'dod chags. This term is very, very common in commentaries, so it's good to know what the three are.

As for how the animals are connected to each one, here's one presentation: snakes have poison, where hatred is like poison, cocks are just used in a farm as a pretty animal, nothing else, so they represent desire. Pigs are fed by the farmers, and little do they know that they will end up as food on the table, so that's why they represent ignorance.

Sometimes the three animals bite each other, representing the connection between these three poisons. Sometimes, the snake and cock comes out from the mouth of the pig, representing that ignorance is the root of the other two.

gshin rje - Yama

The big scary monster hogging the Wheel of Life is gshin rje, Yama in Sanskrit, or Lord of Death as it's usually translated. gshin is death, and rje is a honorific, such as Lord. It's good to learn rje, you see this in titles, such as in Je Tsongkhapa.

Yama belongs to a class of beings called Maras, or bdud in Tibetan. Externally they are represented by demonic influences trying to cause harm, but internally they are really all kinds of mental afflictions triggering problems.

In the Wheel of Life gshin rje represents the grasp of karma and mental afflictions forcing everyone to continue inside the samsaric, suffering existence.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

de bzhin gshegs pa - Tathagata

If you examine most of the Wheel of Life images, you will usually see a Buddha somewhere top right, outside the wheel itself. This is the symbolic meaning of Buddhas, or enlightened beings, being outside the cyclic existence. Buddha usually points at liberation, such as the moon on the left side.

There are many titles and names for Buddhas. Here's one: de bzhin gshegs pa, or Tathagata in Sanskrit.

de bzhin means that itself, or tatha in Sanskrit. gshegs pa is depart, go beyond, or gata.

Thus, one way to translate this term is Thus Gone, or Gone Beyond. It's a title reserved for those beings who have transcended Cyclic existence, indeed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

srid pa'i 'khor lo - Wheel of Life

Another teaching tool used to explain how the source of suffering is generated is srid pa'i 'khor lo, wheel of life.

We quickly mentioned earlier that 'khor lo is wheel. The 'i between is again the genitive particle that binds 'khor lo with srid pa; place an of there just now, and remember to bind from right to left.

srid pa is conditioned existence, realm of samsara. So the more direct translation would be wheel of samsara, or wheel of conditioned existence. But we have to live with the common expression Wheel of Life now. Anyway, now you know the more expressive translation.

Let's go more into the srid pa'i 'khor lo next and see what it represents. There are many images available on the Internet, so do a search on this term to refresh how it looks like.

Another interesting tidbit is that it's very auspicious to have this image on the entrance to monasteries, or houses. It's like the most essential teaching tool Buddhism has.

Monday, June 18, 2007

'khor bar 'khor - samsara cycle

Ok, I think you have now seen one of the presentations how samsara works. bag chags from past triggers 'dzin pa, with yid 'ong mi 'ong, and each of those two triggers in the mind either 'dod chags or zhe sdang, which leads to planting karma for another round, or las bsags. So it's indeed a nasty cyclic system, going round and round, round and round. And the trick is to break it.

This is described as 'khor bar 'khor. 'khor ba is the translation from Sanskrit samsara, or cyclic existence. 'khor is one of those good words to learn, if you know it, you could figure out rough context -- it means circle but also retinue (like a circle of disciples). Think of something that is a circle, or goes round and round. It even plays a role in the word 'khor lo - or chakra in Sanskrit.

The end letter r in the word 'khor bar is actually a particle - a so called general sub-ordination particle that binds from right, like a verb, to the left, to form a relationship.

The verb here is 'khor, to rotate, spin. So this whole expression is to continue spinning in the cyclic existence. Anyway, there's a way out, so more about that later. Actually, just knowing how this all works if half the victory.

Meanwhile, next we will quickly list other presentations concerning the second noble truth, the source of suffering, that are good to know concerning more self-study and examination.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

kun gzhi rnam par shes pa - all ground consciousness

Different Buddhist schools have different interpretation how las (karma) and its bag chags are stored. This is a simplified presentation. For the lower schools, this is actually material, a form of aura that is formed around the being.

For the mind only school, all this is stored in the mind, in the kun gzhi rnam par shes pa, or alaya-vijnana in Sanskrit. Usually it's translated as all-ground consciousness. It's also sometimes shortened to kun gzhi, which means all ground, kun -- all, gzhi -- foundation, or in this case ground.

rnam par is very, completely, used when translating the Sanskrit prefix vi. shes pa here means consciousness. So in the Mind-Only school, there are more consciousnesses than the five senses plus mental consciousness. This consciousness will pick up all karmic seeds and bag chags and from this consciousness they are ripening.

The higher schools of Buddhist thought, Madhyamika, showed that this is not that simple. With kun gzhi have the problem of the mind examining the mind, and where does it stop. Also, it is not existing from its own side, it has interdependence to other things. Ultimately, in this presentation, karma and bag chags are just mental projections in the mind stream. Which is good news, if they are not self-existent, the reasons for these karmas and bag chags to trigger could be changed due to dependent origination, neutralized -- and this enables the possibility to cleaning up the min stream and have an enlightened mind free from obstructions, mental suffering and so on.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

las bsags - collect karma

Ok, so far we have bag chags that trigger 'dzin pa, these then have in the mind states of yid 'ong mi 'ong; the first triggers 'dod chags, the second zhe sdang.

Which leads to las bsags, las is karma and bsags is collect, or collecting karma.

karma is a really, really tricky word to translate, and it does not help that it's used in contemporary writing to mean all kinds of things. I think it's best to leave the word as it is, and have a good definition what it is, rather than using an English word (or other language translation). Karma means that there's an action and it will lead to a definite result, so it's both an action and the result, not one or the other.

Another word used in literature when collecting karma is sa bon, seeds, these are the future results planted.

We should take another detour and maybe talk more where the sa bon, or las, are stored, based on various Buddhist schools. But rest assured, we will close the presentation of Samsara, and also the second truth about the cause suffering, as well. You will learn sooner or later that Buddhist presentations are big on outlines!

Friday, June 15, 2007

zhe sdang - aversion

From mi 'ong in the mind zhe sdang will form - aversion, such as hatred, aggression, and so on. If you feel dislike for an object, then this is the certain outcome.

zhe sdang and the earlier mentioned 'dod chags are two of the so called three poisons, or dug gsum, that are frequently used in the literature as the term for these three cases. The third one is gti mug, ignorance, in Sanskrit moha. It's actually the worst of the three, as this will ensure the two other ones. Ignorance in Buddhism is really not knowing how the mind and things work, and by ignorance causing suffering to oneself and others.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

'dod chags - desire based on attachment

Ok, what happens next when yid 'ong mi 'ong is in the mind? From yid 'ong 'dod chags will appear.

'dod chags has been translated in many ways, but it's desire based on attachment, or graping to something desirable from its own side, or ignorant liking based on the false assumption that the object is desirable from its own side.

From a translation point of view, just using the word desire is not a complete translation. One could desire to be free from suffering, but to desire objects where objects supposedly are desirable from their own side -- which is a false assertion -- is closer to the meaning in this context. It's important to get in the connection to 'dzin pa here!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

yid 'ong mi 'ong - pleasant and unpleasant

Hang on there, there's a system behind this all. First we have various bak chags that trigger various 'dzin pa, of which bdag 'dzin and bden 'dzin are the worst. From those yid 'ong my 'ong appears.

yid 'ong means pleasant, pleasing, attractive . mi 'ong is the opposite, unpleasant, not good.

In other words, from grasping to oneself and phenomena (which is a mistake to start with), the mind experiences pleasant and unpleasant states of mind. Or, things that do not have self-existence, supposedly radiates from them something that makes them attractive or undesirable. For example, why do some love radish, and others thinks its awful??

This is just part one of three part section, where this one is still a passive state of mind.

Next is what will happen in the mind after these pleasant and unpleasant thoughts arise.

Monday, June 11, 2007

gnyis 'dzin - grasping to duality

Here's a third way to look at grasping, gnyis 'dzin, grasping to duality. The gnyis is two, so it's grasping to two, but two here means duality.

Examples of such grasping is grasping to oneself and the rest of the world, subject and object, thinking in terms of a consciousness and external objects, believing in true existence for both. Or using other terms, there's a grasper and grasping to someone, in the act of grasping. An enlightened mind is not operating in this dual aspect.

Again, there are many logical and meditational systems to show that this is an untrue assertion.

This is again triggered by bag chags, and these acts of grasping, 'dzin pa, will result in something that we will go through next.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

bden 'dzin - grasping to true existence

This is the second form of graping that bag chags from past will trigger, bden 'dzin, grasping to true existence. bden is true, authentic.

The grasping in this case is to hold on to thinking that an external reality exists independently, from its own side, rather than everything being interdependent connected.

This world view is only supported by the higher Buddhist schools, where there are different interpretations and levels of how much truly exists, or not at all. The Prasangika-Madhyamika is the highest presentation, where nothing exists from its own side, not even the rules that define how things work. Note again, it does not mean that nothing exists at all, rather that nothing exists by its own, rather by dependence to something else.

This one and the earlier bdag 'dzin are sometimes called 'dzin pa gnyis, the two graspings, so you might encounter this term in translations and then you know what it's all about. As you will learn, many texts have short terms and labels for more complex terms, that's why it's very important to learn as many dharma terms as possible.

Next another presentation on grasping that might open up other, interesting avenues.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

bdag 'dzin - grasping to self

To continue, the bag chags will trigger all kinds of mental activities, of which we will go through the most important ones concerning samsara -- 'dzin, grasping.

The first important one is bdag 'dzin, grasping to oneself. bdag is oneself, in Sanskrit atman.

As example, this grasping has different levels, where the strongest bdag 'dzin happens when someone is praising or blaming you, or let's say a car drives suddenly in front of you on the road.

As mentioned, some of the bag chags is the habitual tendency to think that oneself exists independently from its own side. There are many logical and meditational techniques in Buddhism showing that such a self-existent entity -- soul -- does not have any reason to exist (note, it still exists, but not from its own side.)

This was also the big philosophical debate in ancient India between other schools versus Buddhism, whether atman is real, or anatman, no self, is valid. All Buddhist schools accept anatman, or bdag med.

We will see later what dangers lie ahead when bdag 'dzin is happening.

Friday, June 08, 2007

'dzin and 'dzin pa

The next good word to learn concerning how suffering happens over and over is the verb 'dzin, to grasp or to hold. If you place the pa after this word you get 'dzin pa, grasping or holding.

This is one reason why you see so many pa (and po, ba, ma and mo) letters in Tibetan, they are used to create other words from verbs and other constructs. It's another way to figure out where the word ends, too! As in Sanskrit, there are no clear word ending indicators, like spaces in Western languages, so you need to build an instinct where words end and others start.

This is a very, very common set of words when reading Tibetan, if you know the meaning, you could even sometimes indirectly figure out what the combinational word is.

Usually grasping and holding is a negative activity, but there are positive cases, too, such as in the word ting nge 'dzin, Sanskrit samadhi, single-pointed concentration, or as you have now an intuition for this word usage, holding on to objects.

We will next go through three different kinds of 'dzin pa that are the cause of samsara, two main ones used in presentations about this topic, and one interesting one that might open up new views about reality.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

bag chags

To continue to go into details about the source of suffering, it's good to know how the suffering is happening over and over again. Hence the next posts are about keywords related to this explanation.

First it is about bag chags, in Sanskrit vasana. This word is used a lot in presentations about karma. It means habitual tendencies, subtle inclinations that are imprinted in the mind, like a stain. For example, if someone smokes, there will be a habitual tendency for an urge to smoke every day, usually around the same time. There are bigger picture bag chags, such as why some people are kind by nature, and others are cruel; it's the tendency to behave in a certain way that will trigger similar actions in future, reinforcing the bag chags.

As with bad habits, bag chags are hard to remove. They are actually so hard to eliminate that it takes a huge meditational event -- experience reality directly -- to realize that everything we take for granted is wrong, to really start removing them permanently.

Anyway, the bag chags are the starting point. Next about the really nasty habit that is triggered over and over again, every microsecond, in the mind.

By the way, I will deliberately from now leave out the translation for certain Tibetan words we will use in the next presentations -- so you need to look them up, they are sometimes in this blog, or at least in the dharmadictionary. Even better, memorize them!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Using VoodooPad as a Translation Tool


I've used VoodooPad for a while as a generic translation tool. You could select text, and make hyperlinks to other documents inside the VoodooPad project. So each time the same term is shown in the Wylie document, the underlines show up and I could follow and see what term I used before.

VoodooPad 3.2 is even better! Note the image, now if I command-control and hover the mouse over the link, the first lines of the linked document shows up. So I could just scan over the document and quickly see a rough translation based on earlier terms.

You could build up your own Dharma-vocabulary system this way, and be very consistent how you use terms. Also, you could take entries from dharmadictionary and other sources, and just add these into the same project, and you could slowly build up your own customized translation system. Pretty neat, or what!

I don't know if there's a corresponding Windows application that does something similar -- this is MacOSX only. Also, there's a free version and a very cheap full version, as well, so you could first try out the free one.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

rig pa and ma rig pa

To continue with our presentation of topics around the sources of suffering. The words rig pa and ma rig pa are very useful.

rig pa means pure information awareness, being aware of things as they really are. The opposite - ma is the negation particle here -- ma rig pa, is ignorance, not knowing how things really are. rig pa has many translations, check out the various examples over at dharmadictionary.

Unlike most other world views, in Buddhism there's really no ultimate battle between good and evil forces. It' rather the split between ignorance and true knowledge. Ignorance will trigger wrong modes in mind, causing suffering. True knowledge will stop such wrong modes of mind happening.

In such a world view, evil forces are evil as they are ignorance about the consequences of their actions, leading to suffering, not just for others, also for the evil ones. Good is also mostly ignorant, not knowing why goodness is happening around them, leading to easily get into wrong mental modes in mind that will create suffering in future. However, just being good is a big positive step, as such mental modes will lead to positive results in future, but such results are alas transitory and will go away.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Uttaratantra - source of karma and afflictions 6

Ok, finally! Here's the translation of the verses.

Karma and mental afflictions always arise
from an improper mode of mental activities.

I added this into the dharmadictionary list of quotations, as well.

So there's something funny going on in the mental activities, an improper mode of thought. We will look at this all next.

Meanwhile, here are two other translations of the same verse, to see how various translators have translated this. First the translation from Buddha Nature, The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra with Commentary by Jamgon Kongtrul (Snow Lion), translated by Rosemarie Fuchs:

Karma and poisons are always based
upon improper conceptual activity.

And here's the translation from The Changeless Nature, translators Ken & Maria Holmes:

Karma and the defilements are always based
Upon a mode of thought which is wrong.

As you could see, different kinds of approaches translating this verse, but they all are the same in meaning.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Uttaratantra - source of karma and afflictions 5

Ok, finally the last word, or actually the first on the first line. This is tshul bzhin, appropriate, proper, suitable. Now the negation ma yin makes sense, tshul bzhin ma yin means not appropriate, not proper.

tshul is a good word to learn, anyway, it means principle, method, way of acting. One version of this is thsul khrims, morality, discipline, in Sanskrit shila. It's also a common monk name, Tsultrim, as well as the second of the six perfections.

Ok, now we are ready to show the full translation, as well as various examples how this is translated. And the mystery of where from las dang nyong mongs arises is also resolved.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Uttaratantra - source of karma and afflictions 4

Continuing going backwards, the next combinational word is ma yin. We have talked about yin before, it's the verb is when something is as it is.

ma is a negation, see here for more information about negations in the Tibetan grammar.

All together, ma yin means is not. What is negated, the word we talked about earlier, yid byed, or the word before the negation, tshul bzhin? Well, best to translate it all and then it will be revealed. Meanwhile, put ma yin into your mental storage container, in the closest shelf, as you will encounter this pattern a lot.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Uttaratantra - source of karma and afflictions 3

Continuing going backwards in the first line, the next word is byed. This is a verb, to do, make, create, something that indicates that action will trigger something.

However, here's a case where one might look at words too separately, this is actually yid byed, where the previous word yid is used to form the word used here: mental activity, mental engagement. This his why it's so important to see the bigger pattern with words and not look into too small fragments of the Tibetan words.

yid byed is a good word from the explanatory point of view. yid is mind (Sanskrit manas), specifically the idea-centric consciousness, subjective mind, the thinking process. So it's the mind that creates and triggers things.

One more clue wherefrom las dang nyong mongs arise, but there's more!