Friday, December 28, 2007

phung po lnga - The Five Aggregates

Next is the number of aggregates or skandhas, as well as a listing of each one of them.

phung po is skandha, aggregate, or heap, rnams is a plural marker so this is about skandhas or aggregates.

ni is again the emphatic particle that isolates the words from an expression or some other part. Here it isolates it from lnga, which is number five. You will encounter this particle quite a lot in texts such as this one that has definitions and listings.

ste is another important particle -- Stephen Hodge calls this the semi-final particle which is a very intriguing name for it. It is used to tie together smaller sentences, to introduce something as part of an earlier sentence (like here), or to coordinate together multiple smaller sentences. In this latter case you could just translate this particle with 'and' or 'and then.' Actually here I would use : as the next part will list the five skandhas.

This particle takes the form ste here as the last word's last letter was a vowel. You will also see it in forms of te and de. Expect to see those a lot!

Next, we we have talked about the five skandhas before, we will go through the text entry that lists all five. Yes, it's a big chunk of text, but should not be hard to translate.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How many?

One of the special qualities of Abhidharma-Samuccaya is that it is constructed around a question and answer system. Each part in the compendium starts with a question or some questions and then they are answered. This is a very effective way to list data as the question itself frames the context of the answer.

This is the beginning of the section explaining shandhas, elements and spheres. We know from before that skandha is phung po, element is khams and sphere is skye mched.

The rnams means plural, thus phung po rnams is skandhas, khams rnams is elements and skye mched rnams is spheres.

ni is an emphasis particle, translate is here quickly as 'as for.' This emphasis particle is to isolate a word or a sentence. du is here 'how many.' Thus this is a question.

So, we have: how many skandhas are there, how many elements are there and how many spheres are there? Note the last sentence with she na, this is usually translated as 'if asked', 'if you ask', or something similar. Anyway, you could always leave this out and just translate this as: How many skandhas, elements and spheres are there?

So that's what we will do next, go through all the skandhas, elements and spheres!

phung po khams skye mched

I was thinking about going through the Tibetan translation of Abhidharma-Samuccaya line by line, but immediately in the beginning of the first chapter there's a summary of what this section will explain. So I think it will be better to skip certain parts. Also there's a long listing of various parts soon after. I was thinking about condensing all this, but then again it's good to see the sentences repeating, as seeing the patterns over and over will help anyone recognize similar patterns. Also, those listings have a lot of key words good to know.

Anyway, the beginning of the first chapter has to do with phung po (skandha, heaps), khams, dhatu, elements) and skye mched (ayatana, spheres). There will be a listing of all these parts, definitions, characteristics, as well as other interesting information related to these parts. Then these will be combined with other parts to see more connections and interesting relationships.

We will talk more about these then later, but just seeing the listing of what they consist of will give enough insight into these three important collections.

By the way, I have a revised ACIP edition of the Tibetan translation of Abhidharma-Samuccaya, but I don't want to publish it openly. However, if someone wants this text from me, send me email and I could provide it.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Homage - Part 2

The beginning of the homage, in this Tibetan translation, and what the text pays homage to, is 'jam dpal gzhon nur gyur pa, Manjushri-kumara-bhuta. One English translation of this of many names of Manjushri is The Youthful Gentle Splendor.

'jam dpal is Manjushri, or Gentle Splendor. gzhon nur gyur pa is to become a youth, guyr pa is to become, gzhon nu is youthful, and the r in gzhon nur is a general subordination particle that organizes the right with the left. If there's something to be learned here is to always watch out for possible particles at the end of words, otherwise you will spend time trying to find words in a dictionary that are not present.

One way to interpret this homage is that Abhidharma is hard to understand, so paying homage to Manjushri is a way to pay homage to the highest wisdom ((see Jewel Ornament of Liberation Introduction.)

Another interesting interpretation is that when the texts where collected after the pari-nirvana of Buddha, Manjushri the bodhisattva recited the Abhidharma texts.

Also, in the classification system introduced by the Tibetan king Ralphachen, all Abhidharma texts should have this homage to classify them into the basket of Abhidharma.

Next, we will continue in the text, no worries, Abhidharma is not hard, it's actually fun!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Homage - Part 1

Next in the prologue is the homage section. We will break this to a couple of postings. We will also read this part backwards.

The ending is phyag 'tshal lo. The lo part indicates a proper sentence ending by adding this lo part to the end of the actual verb. phyag is to prostrate, or pay homage. phyag 'tshal is homage or salutation.

The la before this is a particle, oblique particle, or me as a programmer think of this particle as a pointer particle. It binds the right side with a construct to the left related to 'for what', or 'considering what.' Anyway, use the simple word 'to' just now.

So we are paying homage to something, and that's next.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

bang po dang po - First Section

Yes, in the prologue and sections of the Abhidharma-Samuccaya we will go through somewhat mundane parts, but it's good to learn those. If you see these patterns and learn them, then when you look at other Tibetan texts it will look familiar. And based on such pattern recognition you could suddenly very fluently read parts of translations.

bam po means section, a collection grouped together. dang po means first. So this is of course the first section. Just as a fun exercise, do a net search on "bam po dang po" . By the way, I found an old article I wrote for a now not so active Tibetan translator wiki system. I also found out if you do a net search, at least on Google, with "bam po" and Chandra Das you get a hit directly into the Chandra Das Tibetan Dictionary, PDF version, with the section hi-lighted, so that's very neat.

As I've mentioned before, most Buddhist texts are very much organized outlines with information. You need to just keep track of the sections along the way when you translate or read texts -- there's seldom any context of a table of contents, unless some other scholar has produced a specific commentary with such information.

Next, the homage section in the prologue.

Monday, December 17, 2007

chos mngon pa kun las btus pa - Tibetan Title

After the Sanskrit title, as this is a Tengyur text, is the Tibetan title for the text. We have already gone through the title, so it's more to learn the patterns in the prologues of Tibetan texts, where the titles are listed.

Here is the somewhat familiar phrase, pod skad du. skad du was as earlier in the language. bod is Tibet. So this phrase is: In Tibetan.

Next, we will continue in the text.

Friday, December 14, 2007

chos mngon pa kun las btus pa - Sanskrit Title 2

To continue with the Sanskrit title, the Tibetan translations use -- of course -- Tibetan letters to spell out the Sanskrit name itself. The actual Tibetan letters even were imported from India.

The second part spells out a bhi dha rma sa mu tsacha ya. Notice the way how some letters are stacked on top of each other. All together this is Abhidharmasamuccaya, Abhidharmasamuchaya, and variations on how it this is transliterated to English.

Sometimes you just need to see the patterns. Notice the dha rma section, the first D could as well be nga, but ngdha rma does not make sense.

Next, the Tibetan title in the prologue.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

chos mngon pa kun las btus pa - Sanskrit Title 1

The text then continues with this standard set of parts. If you learn these, you should be able to translate and understand most if not all of the Kangyur and Tengyur texts translated to tibetan.
The first part is rgya gar skad du. rgya gar is India but note later that there will be a twist to this! skad is voice or language. du is a general sub-ordination particle that will classify what is to the right with what is on the left. Use the word in here.

So the first pass on translating this is In the language of India. However, as the Mahayana Buddhist texts were written in Sanskrit, you might as well translate this as: In Sanskrit.

Next, how to learn how the Tibetans transcribed Sanskrit words using Tibetan letters.

chos mngon pa kun las btus pa - Title

This is the title that you would see if you would start on the first (pecha) page in this text. We have gone through the title before, so the only new part is the bzhugs so part. This is good to learn, as you will encounter the same pattern on most Tibetan texts, on the first page.

bzhugs usually means stay, remind, reside, contain, but here it's ended with the proper sentence ending -so, as in bzhugs so. The typical way to translate this something like 'herein is' , or 'this contains.' You could actually be very flexible, as long as it means something like this is the text xzy, or this contains ... and so on.

By the way, this text has been translated from hybrid Sanskrit/Tibetan to French by Walpola Rahula. The original Sanskrit version had sections missing. Then this French translation was translated to English by Sara Boin-Webb, ISBN: 0-89581-941-4, and you could order the book from Amazon and similar places. Unfortunately it seems like this book is very expensive...

Next, we continue in the Tibetan version of this text.

Monday, December 10, 2007

chos mngon pa kun las btus pa - Abhidharma-Samuccaya 2

The second part of the name of this text is kun las btus pa - Samuccaya.

kun las means from all, or all that. btus pa is collected, gathered, extracted.

In other words, this combination means compilation from all sources, or a compendium, in this particular case a compilation of Abhidharma material. You could see this Sanskrit and Tibetan term from time to time in various compilation texts, such as Dignaga's Pramana-Samuccaya, or Shantideva's Siksa-Samuccaya.

As for the word Abhidharma, chos mngon pa, there are all kinds of attempts to translate this to English: higher knowledge, metaphysics, and so on. I tend to be somewhat conservative and use the Sanskrit term; it's nice, and it forces someone to learn the meaning behind the word, and also avoids any misunderstandings -- for example meta-physics and the connection to new age material.

Next, the full title of the text as seen in the actual Tibetan text.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

chos mngon pa kun las btus pa - Abhidharma-Samuccaya 1

OK! We will start going through selected parts of Abhidharma-Samuccaya, or chos mngon pa kun las btus pa as it is known in Tibetan. Why? Because we are still on the third noble truth, learning more how suffering could be eliminated.

What is this text? It is a very important text in Tengyur written by Asanga. It is covering the Mahayana Abhidharma. Don't worry, things will be clear in the next postings. Why is this text so important? Because it has a very powerful question and answer format that describes a lot of terms, mind, skandhas (there was a request going more into those), elements, senses, and much, much more. For example, commentaries based on mind and mental functions sometimes use this root text for definitions.

Anyway, what is Abhidharma, or chos mngon pa? chos here means phenomena, dharma, all that exists, inner, outer and so on. mngon pa means to arise, to be visible, higher; in this case Tibetans translated abhi from Sanskrit as mngon pa. So it's meta-physics, or how things really work, or how they exist.

Note that there's also a lower abhidharma, how the non-Mahayana schools describe as things work. This higher abhidharma builds upon that. Usually monks and nuns first study Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-Kosha that covers the basics -- but we will jump into the highest level and learn along the way.

Next, the second part of this title.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

gzugs - form

The skandha associated with chos kyi dbyings kyi ye shes is gzugs, form, rupa in Sanskrit.

More associations with this wisdom. Concerning the five elements it is space, with the five senses it is sight.

Next, we will continue on the third noble truth with a new theme!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

rnam par snang mdzad - Vairochana

The dhyani Buddha associated with chos kyi dbyings kyi ye shes is rnam par snang mdzad - Vairochana.

rnam par is one of those expressions that are good to memorize, it shows up in texts here and there and it means completely, fully. The Sanskrit vi prefix is translated as rnam par in Tibetan texts.

snang is appearance, phenomena, it's an abbreviation of snang ba. mdzad is to perform, to make. However, this is a combinational world, snang mdzad, making things to appear, or illuminating.

There's something beautiful that Vairochana is the complete illuminator, dispelling any ignorance.

Vairochana is white in color, the element associated with Vairochana is earth. The mandala entrance, depending on the tradition, is usually in the center. The symbol of Vairochana is the dharma wheel (chos 'khor.)

Next, the skandha associated with Vairochana.

Monday, December 03, 2007

gti mug - Ignorance

The poison that is actually chos kyi dbyings kyi ye shes in an impure form, is gti mug, ignorance! I would have not myself thought that the wisdom of the sphere of reality is in an impure form just plain ignorance. But it all fits together.

In Sanskrit, gti mug is moha.

Next, the dhyani Buddha associated with this wisdsom.