Thursday, August 30, 2007

theg pa dman pa - Hinayana

The Buddhist practitioners could be divided into two major groups. This is the first one, theg pa dman pa -- or Hinayana which should sound familiar. The short form of t his is theg dman. The only school left today of this group is the Theravada tradition. So the best way to really translate this today is to call it Theravada, why? See later debate about this all.

theg pa is vehicle, or yana in Sanskrit. The idea here is that it is a vehicle of teachings that carries the practitioner towards a goal.

dman pa is Tibetan for ordinary, and this is where I will stop explaining the Tibetan. Why, because its is not really proper to fully translate this vehicle as common, ordinary, or low.

Some English translations of this group of practitioners also try to convey the idea of individual responsibility, and that might sound well, but Hinayana practitioners also think of the welfare of others.

Furthermore, this teaching vehicle is the foundation for all Buddhist practices. For example, most of the teachings on karma, and a large part of keeping the vows are based on this system.

The biggest difference is in the meditation techniques and philosophical views of reality. Someone might actually think they belong to another school (Mahayana), but their views are actually in this group. So it's not just a matter of attending the right monastery, or belonging to a specific Buddhist tradition -- it's really how one is looking at the world, and how someone is practicing. Anyway, this term is used in the literature, so you need to know it.

The reason it's good to look into this classification at this point is that depending on the meditational system and world view, the outcome, Nirvana, will be different.

Next we will go through two kinds of practitioners that belong to this group.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Definition of Nirvana - Part 6

So this is the whole definition of Nirvana in Tibetan. Let's go through it now as a whole sentence.

Nirvana is (not mentioned in the definition above): the permanent cessation where someone has eliminated each and every mental affliction, due to individual analysis.

As you could see, it's very cryptic, and one needs to know that the the cessation via individual analysis is to get direct realizations of the four noble truths, and this causes a cessation that will eliminate every single mental affliction obstacle, and then one needs to also know what mental afflictions are, and how those are the obstacles to Nirvana. Or, using simple words, bad stuff in the mind blocks someone from being in Nirvana, but there's a way to get rid of the bad stuff.

This definition, by the way, is written by Khedrub Tenpa Dargye (1493-1568), an important teacher from the Sera Me monastery in the Gelug tradition.

Next, we need to go more through the types of Nirvana, as there are many ways to classify Nirvana.

This is by the way the 300:th posting, phew!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Definition of Nirvana - Part 5

Ok, the whole expression at the end of the definition of Nirvana is so sor brtags 'gog . This word means individual analysis. To break it down a little bit more, earlier we mentioned that so sor means individual; brtags means to investigate, or understand. 'gog means to obstruct, to stop.

Anyway, the whole technical term, so sor brtags 'gog means that the four noble truths are investigated as well as understood, and not just from an analytical point of view. They are fully realized, so they are always present in the mind stream!

The event that triggers the four noble truths to always be present in the mind is just after one of the most important phases for a meditator, after experiencing emptiness directly. We will go through the stages leading to this state, as well as go through more terms related to really experience the four noble truths later. But meanwhile it's interesting to know that the four noble truths are more than just intellectual statements.

Next we will finally go through the whole definition of Nirvana.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Definition of Nirvana - Part 4

The next section, which the earlier genitive binds towards the left, is so sor.

so sor is another good expression good to learn, as you could see it a lot. It means individual, or separate. The base is actually so so, the r letter is again the sub-ordination particle, which in turns binds the right side next with the earlier left side.

As you could see, the grammar sometimes means that you have blocks connected, and bigger blocked connected, and it's good to keep this in mind when translating. However! This is just part of a bigger word, so we should not translate this yet, as the rest of the words hang together to form a bigger construct that we will look at next.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Definition of Nirvana - Part 3

The third part in the definition is spangs pa'i.

spangs pa is to give up or to abandon. spangs is also used for the same meaning.

The 'i at the end of this word is a genitive particle, it will bind the right side with the previous part we talked about. So far it has been to abandon with no exception all mental afflictions.

It is indeed natural that Nirvana has to do with a mental state of no mental afflictions present whatsoever. It is interesting to read about Buddhist meditators who have reached Nirvana, but according to their biographies, bad things still happened to them after this. Then again, they didn't then have any mental afflictions running in their minds, even if bad things happened around them.

Next is the important part of how to get to this state, as described in the definition of Nirvana. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Definition of Nirvana - Part 2

The next construct is ma lus par, the word here is ma lus pa, with the r is a particle.

ma lus pa is a very common construct, so it's good to memorize and learn it now, you will see it a lot. It means with no exception. The ma negation particle gives a clue about this. lus pa means something is left.

The r is a particle binding from right to left, it's a subordination particle, defines a hierarchy of meaning. So here the construct so far, the mental afflictions that obscure, with no exception (i.e. all of them) is established with something that we will look at next.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Definition of Nirvana - Part 1

First maybe it's good to learn one definition of nirvana, these differ somewhat from monastic university to another, but here's one. We will go through this one a few words at a time.

nyon sgrib means the mental afflictions that obscure. nyon is short of nyon smongs pa, mental afflictions, or kleshas in Sanskrit. Note that this is not nyon, as in listen! (imperativ of nyan pa, listening). This is a good example where it's better to start from the biggest possible construct, than going through the translation one small word at a time.

The second word is sgrib, obscuration.

So, at this point of time the definition of nirvana has to do with the mental afflictions that obscure... Let's see what's next.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

mya ngan las 'das pa - Nirvana

This is the long form of Nirvana in Tibetan - mya ngan las 'das pa.

mya ngan is the longer word for grief, we saw the shorter word myang earlier.

las is a particle that binds from right to left, it means here from. 'das pa is transcend, go beyond.

Again we have the meaning to go beyond grief, in other words, the state of nirvana has no grief, or actually no mental sufferings whatsoever. The closest someone could approach that state is to live a very pure life for a very long time, and mental suffering might still show up from time to time. I usually think of this as a state the first weekend morning on a long summer vacation, but to increase this feeling millions of times.

Why the short and long Tibetan words? Well, you need to think of the wood carvers carving all the blocks for printing texts, a shorter word is easier and makes it possible to add more text. There are even cases in Tibetan texts where it mentions 'and so on', and the intelligent reader could figure out what it means.

We have to look more into the concept of mya ngan las 'das pa -- it's a very, very deep topic.

Monday, August 20, 2007

myang 'das - Nirvana

The goal of removing all suffering is myang 'das, Nirvana.

myang is is to suffer or to be tormented, 'das is to pass, to transgress.

There's a longer Tibetan word that we will go through next, as well as look at various kinds of Nirvanas, there's more than just one definition or concept where this word is used, and as a translator you need to find the actual usage from the context.

Nirvana, by the way, is from a root word nir, where nir means to exhaust something, like blowing out a candle.

The whole concept and idea of Nirvana has, in my opinion, been mistranslated and misunderstood in the Western world, especially 30+ years back in time. When reading about Buddhism in High school books, the way myang 'das was presented sounded like the goal is to disappear into nihilism, and that didn't sound interesting for a teenager. And it didn't sound logically valid, as you can't get to nothing from something.

Even today, in the popular culture, the word Nirvana is used for all kinds of issues, mostly related to perfect happiness. And it is, but it's much, much more, too, and that's what we will go through, at it's good to learn the results that everyone will reach at some point.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

'gog pa - The Cessation of Suffering

We are now entering the third of the four noble truths. This is 'gog pa - the truth of the cessation. With cessation here it means cessation of suffering.

'gog pa is cessation, annihilation. 'gog is a verb, to stop, to hinder, or to end.

The core of Buddhist teachings is to point out the suffering, but also how to end it. Which makes it actually a very positive message, even if we dwelt a long time with all the issues related to suffering.

We will go next through various key concepts behind the end of suffering.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

rga shi - Aging and Death

The link number twelve is cause by birth or becoming, and this is rga shi, aging and death, jaramarana in Sanskrit.

rga is is aging or age, and shi is death.

In the Wheel of Life this is the image of the old man, or a corpse.

Aging is of two types, immediately when someone is born, they start aging -- can't avoid that. The other type is deterioration, which leads to death.

This last cause is of course the easiest to realize, but the important part is to see the causes leading to this, all the way to the root issue, ignorance.

Another thing good to note is that there are many, many chains of these twelve links constantly created, in progress, or about to be finished. There's still hope to stop this samsaric wheel, which leads to the next big topic in the outline -- yest we are back to the four noble truths again.

Anyway, this has so far been a classical presentation of the second noble truth, the truth behind suffering, and how it all happens. Onwards!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

skye ba - Birth

The eleventh link, created by becoming, is skye ba, birth, jāti in Sanskrit.

skye is a verb, to grow or arise.

In the Wheel of Life this is is usually shown by the image of the women giving birth. The becoming is changing state, to an actual event, such as birth. As in real life, if normal birth is happening, birth is the starting point of a normal samsaric existence of sufferings now and in future, unless this is now stopped in future by this current life.

Monday, August 13, 2007

srid pa - Existence

The tenth link, created by grasping, is srid pa, existence, bhava in Sanskrit.

srid is also another word for existence, phenomena, becoming.

In the wheel of life this is either represented by a pregnant women (baby is becoming to existence), or a man and women making love (creating existence). Sometimes it's also someone crossing a stream. This also represents life becoming, or a cycle of existence is to happen due to past deeds causing it to definitely happen.

This also represents that a karma that has been created via the earlier links has to become, come to existence, in future.

So the trick to avoid this is to stop the earlier links from being generated. As for the existing links triggering karma, the different schools have various opinions, based on the emptiness views. The lower schools think its inevitable that bad karmas have to ripen and meanwhile one should avoid creating new ones. The highest school positions that not even karma is self-existent, so there are ways to short-cut or neutralize future karmas from triggering. As if the karmas will never go away, even after a neutralization, that's an interesting debate topic!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

len pa - Grasping

The ninth link, triggered by attachment, is len pa, grasping, upadana in Sanskrit.

len is a verb, to take or collect.

In the Wheel of Life this is symbolized by the image of our dear friend the monkey moving around in a tree and picking fruit. This is what's happening as part of attachment, the mind is grasping for the object. Note there are two kinds of graspings: graping to desireable objects, detachment, to be free of undesirable objects.

This related to sense experiences, images, sound, smells, taste, tactile feelings. All this together will form the reason the next link is formed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

sred pa - Attachment

The eight link, triggered by feeling, is sred pa -- attachment, trsna in Sanskrit.

sred is the verb to have desire for, lust for.

Those who study the Tibetan letters, the letter sa is the root letter, and the line below is the ra letter stacked underneath. We again have the line above, so sra becomes sre. The second letter is again the short da, or just d.

In the Wheel of Life this is pictured by people having beer, in other words attachment to have 'yet another one', even if the drinker knows they will get more drunk, fat, losing money, and so on. Sometimes there are other objects of attachment in the image, such as girls playing instruments...

sred pa is a mental factor that will increase desire, with no satisfaction in sight, or, as Mick Jagger taught long time ago: I can't get no satisfaction.

This link is actually present from the fourth one, name and form, up to the ninth one that we will go through next.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

tshor ba - Feeling

The seventh link, triggered by contact, is tshor ba - feeling, vedana in Sanskrit.

tshor is the verb to feel, so feeling is created by adding the ba, this is a very common construct in Tibetan to make new words from verbs.

In the Wheel of Life this is represented by the man getting an arrow into his eye. This is a very graphic image, indeed. Due to the contact via the consciousness of the six sense fields and the objects, then feelings arise: positive, negative, or neutral. Pleasure, pain or neutral feelings arise -- not that also neutral feelings are considered feelings.

The reason for the eye is that the eye is very sensitive, even very small conditions will create feelings. Similarly, feelings will drive us, and we will see in the next link what the feelings will give rise to.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

reg pa - Contact

The sixth link, triggered by the six sense fields, is reg pa - contact.

reg pa is a nice word if you are learning the Tibetan letters. The ra letter has a line on top so it becomes re, then there's a ga but the second letter is short so it's g, and after the upper dot there's a pa letter, and as it's again the first letter it's the full pa sound.

The last line used here, and in the blog, is a way to indicate a separation. It's not like a dot, even if it functions as something similar, to separate statements in Tibetan texts. Here the statement is one single word, so the ending line is used for this.

In the Wheel of Life the image for reg pa is a kiss between a man and a women, and it makes sense as it's a contact between the six sense fields, and various objects, as well as the consciousness. This will then lead to the next dependent link.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

skye mched drug - Six Sense Fields

The fifth link in the twelve links of dependent origination, that the consciousness gives arise to, is skye mched drug, six sense fields, sadayatana in Sanskrit.

skye is to arise, skye mched is sense bases, ayatana in Sanskrit. drug is number six.

These are the six inner sensations used to experience the world: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, tactical feeling, and also the mental sensations. The consciousness is the cause behind these.

In the wheel of life this is symbolized by an empty house. The reason the house is empty is that in terms of birth from a womb these are the organs for these senses are developing in the womb, but not fully functioning yet.

The mental sense is interesting, upon contact with objects it will give rise to specific sensations. So, this is also true of the five other sensations and organs. For example, when hearing something, a certain state of sensations will happen. This is actually something the next link will explain.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

ming gzugs - Name and Form

The fourth link that consciousness brings about it ming gzugs -- name and form, namarupa in Sanskrit.

ming is name (nama). gzugs is form (rupa). In this presentation, name is really the four mental aggregates and form is the physical aggregate. The mental aggregate, that consciousness gives rise to, consist of feeling, discrimination, compositional factors and consciousness. Form is the aggregate of physical phenomena.

In the Wheel of Life image the name is symbolizing by people or a person in a boat, and form the boat itself (such as the body that carries us through life). All together, nama and rupa forms an individual being, or identity. It is the consciousness that will cause this to happen.

This is also the case where an artificial split between inside and outside is happening in the mind, or that the outside world exists independently of our experiences.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

rnam shes - Consciousness

The third link, which arises from compositional actions, is rnam shes, consciousness.

shes is to be aware, to know. rnam is usually indicating an attribute.

In the Wheel Of Life image this is represented by a monkey, a very clever and active animal, usually getting in trouble.

There are different presentations on the number of consciousnesses in Buddhism, but in general there are one for each sense, and a mental consciousness. These consciousnesses are not wrong, but they are impure due to the compositional actions done. When all the consciousnesses are pure, then the world will be experienced as pure.

Another interesting thing to think about is that the twelve links of dependent origination also works the other way. If ignorance is ceased, then compositional actions won't happen, if this won't happen, the consciousnesses that samsaric beings experience will not exist, and so on. This is good to know was we continue along the chain of the links.

Friday, August 03, 2007

'du byed kyi las - Compositional Actions

Ignorance then results in the second chain in the 12-links of dependent origination: 'du byed kyi las, compositional actions, samskarakarma in Sanskrit.

'du byed is formation, samskara. It's kind of the patterns of impulses that bring about experiences. kyi is the genitive particle that binds this word with the next one, remember the general rule that particles bind from right to left. las here is action, karma in Sanskrit.

In the Wheel of Life this is represented by the image where a person is (busily) making pots, forming these volitional actions due to ignorance.

These actions then will bring about pleasurable or painful effects, a potential to experience similar experiences in future. The rules are really simple, any positive actions will result in positive experiences, any negative actions will result in negative experiences.

Letting Others Know About this Blog

Yes, sometimes marketing could be beneficial. Please leave a comment on this entry if you know of any forums, web sites, or any other locations where people interested in learning translation of Tibetan Buddhist texts are present.

I'm usually so lousy with self-promotion, but this is for a good cause, there might be someone out there who really, really wants to learn reading Tibetan texts, and they might benefit a little bit from this blog.

Or then, just let people know about this place, and give them the web link or post it: . It's never too late to start. Or, to use a Zen quote: Move, and the way will open. Thx.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

ma rig pa - Ignorance

This presentation of the twelve links of dependent origination is from HH Dalai Lama's book The Meaning of Life (from a Buddhist Perspective).

The first link is ma rig pa - ignorance, in Sanskrit avidya. Note the ma, it's a negation of rig pa, awareness.

In other words, to not be ignorant is to be aware. To know exactly how things are, and will work, and with this there's no way any causes leading to suffering are created. But for those who are not aware, this will happen, so it's the starting point of the 12-point chain.

In the Wheel of Life this is represented by the image of an old man, blind and hobbling around with a cane, not knowing how things really are. This situation will then be the cause for the following link...

rten 'brel bcu gnyis - 12 Links of Dependent Origination

Next what the Wheel of Life also teaches is the rten 'brel bcu gnyis - twelve links of dependent origination. This is usually described in the twelve parts in the outermost rim of the wheel image.

We looked at rten 'brel earlier - dependent origination. bcu is ten, and gnyis is two, so its 10 + 2, or twelve. This is usually the system how to put together numbers in Tibetan.

These twelve links are used to explain how the second noble truth, source of suffering is happening. There are many ways to actually traverse the twelve links, but let us do a brave attempt to go through them using one system and see how things work together, dependently.