Tuesday, November 18, 2008

VoodooPad 4.0

VoodooPad 4. 0 was announced today. I've been working with the developer, mostly to influence him to get the Unicode linking working. And it's now included! It means you could select one or more Unicode words, make a link, do a translation for the link. In other words, you could slowly build up your own dictionary of phrases and words, place names and so forth, making the translations very consistent.

Even better, if you have a MobileMe (Apple) account, you could now in 4.0 synchronize documents between multiple computers so you could have the same document or documents across your laptop, desktop and other systems.

This makes VoodooPad a very powerful translation tool.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Jamyang Khyentse on Sickness

Lotsawahouse posted today an excellent translation on Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö's text called The Universal Medicine for Healing All Ills.

The web site also has a link to the Tibetan text. It's a short and nice text to go through inside out with the English translation.

There's also a deep meaning behind it, especially for me that have had sudden manifestations of illness for a while now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tibetan Flashcards

Ryan McCormack sent me an email with a link to a project where he has built Tibetan flashcards. Check this out in case you want to use such a good tool for learning.

I've been using post-it notes everywhere, or small cards with Tibetan, sprinkled here and there. I used to have a small notepad with Tibetan, too. The computerized systems such as Ryan's, are very good as they are handy to have around and computers are good at repeating tasks.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Tibetan Unicode Information on dharmadictionary

Chris Fynn updated a page and more with really good information about Tibetan Unicode worth checking out. There's another page also on this page referring to information how to install Tibetan Unicode support on various computer platforms.

As mentioned before, this blog is using Tibetan Unicode since a couple of months' back. There are many reasons, one is that it was time Tibetan was equal to English and other Western languages on Internet.

Sorry, been a while

I got behind it all, had an accident when I biked home from work, collided with a car, ended up in hospital, stayed home for a while healing broken clavicle and ribs, but I'm fine now. Expect more postings as we speak.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Heart Sutra - 8

To continue who is gathering at the Vulture's Peak: བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའི་་་་་

བྱང་ཆུབ། (byang chub) is one of the first words anyone studying Tibetan Buddhist texts should learn, it means enlightenment. Here is is really part of the bigger word བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམ་དཔའ། (byang chub sems dpa'), bodhisattva

To understand this word better, སེམས། (sems) means mind. དཔའ། (dpa') means to be brave, heroic, fearless

Thus, the Tibetan translation of bodhisattva, bodhi warrior, is someone who is brave and heroic in trying to get one's mind enlightened. 

There's an འི་་་ genitive particle after this so it means that this construct it not yet complete...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Heart Sutra - 7

Next the Heart Sutra describes who else is there.


དགེ་སློང། (dge slong) is monk, bhikshu in Sanskrit. དགེ་འདུན། (dge 'dun) is sangha in general, the group of ordained monks and nuns

There's also the qualifier ཆནེན་པོ། (chen po), great. Finally there's the binding particle དང། dang which indicates there are others there, too.

Now, how to translate this part? One approach is to state that there was a great gatherings of monks and nuns, or a great gathering of sangha. Another one is great gathering of the sangha of monks.  The issue, for me, is why there was a specific qualifier for monks and the sangha?I'm not 100% sure but I would be surprised if there was no nuns present, too, at this event. For me, stating that there was a great gathering of monks and the sangha might be somewhat confusing.

So in my case  would translate this as a great gathering of monks and nuns, as using the word sangha might be confusing for anyone who does not now the Sanskrit term. Also, sangha includes all ordained persons, monks and nuns. Anyway, that would be my justification.

Anyway, if someone else has opinions, please share.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Heart Sutra - 6

To continue, next is ་་་བྱ་རྒོད་ཕུང་པོའི་རི་་་་ Again we need to look at bigger structures. 

བྱ་རྒོད། (bya rgod) means vulture. ཕུང་པོ། (phung po) usually means heap, but here it is actually hill, especially as the genitive particle འི binds it with རི། (ri), mountain.

All together, བྱ་རྒོད་ཕུང་པོའི་རི། is Vulture's Peak, a famous mountain area near Rajagriha. You could visit that place still today.

So far,བཅོམ་ལྡན་འདས་རྒྱལ་པོའི་ཁབ་ན་བྱ་རྒོད་ཕུང་པོའི་རི་་་ also has a particle ལ། that could be translated at, so we have a better translation part now available, could even be a single sentence:

The Blessed One was staying at Vulture's Peak in Rajagriha.

Now, some translators like to even translate the place names to English. I'm kind of old school, for example it would sound strange for someone to translate the Finnish capital of Helsinki to English. So I did a compromise here, one part English, the other the original name, as Vulture's Peak is very much the known name in contemporary English texts about Buddhism.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Heart Sutra - 5

Next is རྒྱལ་པོའི་ཁབ་ན་་་་ This is where one has to be careful with translations. རྒྱལ་པོ། (rgyal po) usually means great, royal, king.  ཁབ། (khab) means court, house, residence. But here it is really part a place name,་རྒྱལ་པོའི་ཁབ། (rgyal po'i khab) which is  Rajagriha, or present day Rajgir in India.

The astute reader might now notice that the Sanskrit raja is རྒྱལ་པོ།, so then you know that the word maharaja is the great king (maha - great.)

The particle ན། (na) is a locative particle, so later we will see how it binds the next word structure from right to left with this specific location.

So far we have translated that the Blessed One is at Rajagriha.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Heart Sutra - 4

The actual body of the sutra starts such: བཅོམ་ལྡན་འདས་་་་་་

བཅོམ་ལྡན་འདས། (bcom ldan 'das) is Bhavagan, a title given to Buddha, the Victorious One, the Blessed One, The Conqueror, the Victorious Conqueror and so on. There are many translation of this Sanskrit title. This title is common in Sutras and other texts, so it's good to remember. 

You could see all the possible translations in the provided link to the dharmadictionary entry. But it's good to know that the root is really bhavagan.

PS: If you want to hear the Heart Sutra in Tibetan, here's an excellent link

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tibetan Unicode Text at THDL

I saw that the THDL site now also has Tibetan texts available in Unicode Tibetan. For example Longchenpa's Dispelling All Darkness Throughout the Ten Directions. (phyogs bcu mun sel)

This is good news, five years from now we will have a big collection of original Tibetan texts available in Unicode Tibetan. Even better, the search engines will index the texts so we could do very complex searches and find relevant documentation.

Heart Sutra - 3

The opening lines in sutras have the same format, this is true with the Heart Sutra, too. I've already covered this in in Sutra Opening Lines Part 1  and Sutra Opening Lines Part 2 so it's worth checking these pages out. 

We will start with the actual body of the Heart Sutra next.

PS: Here's a link to 42 different English Translations of the Heart Sutra.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Heart Sutra - 2

The short name for Heart Sutra in Tibetan is ཤེས་རབ་སྙིང་པོ། shes rab snying po, or prajnaparamita hridaya in Sanskrit.

ཤེས་རབ། is wisdom, prajna. སྙིང་པོ། is essence, quintessence. Now, as part of translating the title it has become heart in English, even if the Essence of Wisdom Sutra would work fine, too.

The reason for this name is that this sutra has the essence of Buddhist wisdom teachings. If you know this short sutra inside out, you got the essence.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Heart Sutra - 1

Ok, this is the next topic. We will slowly go through the translation of the whole Heart Sutra. Let's see how long that takes, but it's a noble goal. If you know how the Heart Sutra is translated and you could read it in Tibetan, you will get a huge vocabulary of words and expressions so that reading anything else will be easy. In addition, you create a lot of merit by just reading single words here and there.

I've posted some entries over time concerning sutra material, so here's a listing of postings good to check out:

I'm about to fix those pages so they use Unicode Tibetan. As part of this project I will not dwell so much into something that these parts already cover. However, this will be very suitable for beginners as well, as we will not cover huge amounts of words and sentences, they each will be a nice piece meal.

Feel free to comment below for more suggestions as we will progress along this path.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nice Online Wylie to Unicode Tibetan Converter

This link has a nice Wylie to Unicode converter; you type in Wylie into a form and the output is Unicode that you could then copy to other locations.

This could be handy for those cases where you don't know how to do a quick conversion -- for example me and in case I ever need to do this on a Windows system (XP, Vista.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tibetan Nagarjuna Quotes from Lotsawa School

See this link with interesting short Tibetan and English verses concerning quotes from Nagarjuna concerning emptiness and other topics. It's an easy and interesting way to see how short form verses are translated -- especially with very condensed meaning such as emptiness statements from Nagarjuna.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Cyrus Stearns Translations Online

See the Jonang Foundation web site for more info.

Three of the other translations, done by Michael R. Sheehy, have both Tibetan and English so you could do comparisons of how an excellent Tibetan translator is translating texts.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Learning Letters - PA

Another letter that has a high frequency is the letter PA. The reason is that this letter is used to build new words from other verbs and nouns. This means that there's a good chance you see the end of the word if you encounter པ. 

Here's an example, based on earlier letters we have gone through. སེམས། sems means mind. Note that in the modern Tibetan dialect the last letter in such combinations is not pronounced, so it sounds like SEM. However, if you listen to the Ladakh dialect, or some of the Mongolian dialects, you could still hear the ending SA pronounced so the word sounds like SEMS, as in ancient Tibetan.

If there's a word you see a lot in Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, it is སེམས།

If you add to the end of སེམས། we will get སེམས་པ། This means 'movement of the mind', the way the mind operates, from movement to movement, arising, sustaining and then giving rise to the next moment of mind.

Check out the Tibetan below to see more uses of the letter པ, especially with vowels such as པེ, པི, པོ and པུ.






Monday, March 31, 2008

Learning Letters - SA

The next letter good to learn is ས, SA. This is also the word for ground or earth. Knowing how to put together vowels we have སེ། (one of the six early tribes of Tibet), སི། (whistle or death), སོ། (tooth) and སུ། (who).

Another example is སོ་སོ།, an expression that means individual, distinct. So we got a lot of mileage just by learning another letter and how to build vowels.

Try to find the letter ས in the text below.




Saturday, March 29, 2008

Learning Letters - Vowels

With Tibetan letters, the vowels are marked with a sign above or below the root letter. To take the MA letter, if you add a line above, མེ, it becomes ME (fire). If you add this sign above, མི, it becomes MI (human, or a negation particle).  If you have this, མོ, it is MO (divination system). Finally, with this sign, མུ , you have MU (border.) 

Note that the same system is true for all other letters, examples: ལོ།  LO (age),  ནི། NI (as for), and so on. The signs above or below turns the default vowel, A-based, into a specific vowel. So if you learn these additional four vowels, you know all the five Tibetan vowels.

See if you recognize the various vowels in the Tibetan text below:




Friday, March 28, 2008

Learning Letters - MA

There are many ways to learn the Tibetan letters. One basic system is based on how they are pronounced.

My take is to learn based on the frequency of letters, as well as starting with very simple letters and word combinations. I will try to test this out in the blog -- sorry for you you know the Tibetan lettering system inside out, but this is good for anyone totally new to Tibetan letters and are just starting to read Tibetan. I will classify the postings as Introduction entries.

If you look at Tibetan text, there's lots of overhanging dots and weird letters between. But at some point you start to see some of the letters showing up a lot. MA is one of the first ones you start recognizing.

You could see patterns like ་་་་་་བླ་མ་་་་་་  (lama), ་་་་་ཉི་མ་་་་་( nyima, sun), or སེམས། (sem, mind.) As you could see, it's really part of another word, as Tibetan makes words from small syllables, don't expect words much longer than two, three or four syllables, sometimes even one syllable.

You could actually find the word མ། ma, it means mother, or it's a negation in front of other constructs.

Anyway, by learning མ we will shortly see how various vowels are formed. Anyway, in some cases, མ is part of the word and is pronounced ma, or sometimes it's a lonely m. 

Below is Tibetan text, try to recognize the letter མ and how it shows up in various configurations.

།བླ་མ་དེས། དི་ལྟར་བཇོརྡ་དེ། ཁྱོད་ཀྱིས་བྱང་ཆུབ་ཏོ་སྨོན་ལམ་བྲབ་བམ། 


Issues with ACIP to Unicode Conversion and MacOSX

I'm really having fun with Unicode and Tibetan. But part of this is to take a lot of ACIP encoding material that I have as well as available from AsianClassics.org and similar places.

I saw that JSkad had a conversion from ACIP to Unicode (text file). So I tried this, but the output didn't look like Unicode at all. I was using Notepad and Pages (latest), but both didn't show Tibetan Unicode fonts from the output, rather Roman letters with strange numbers.

Now, it could be an operator error, so I need to do something with the text file before using it, or something else.  In case someone has ideas what is happening and how to fix this, please post a comment. Also, if you have other tools or ideas how to convert ACIP encoding to Unicode on the Macintosh platform. If I get this working, a lot of really cool Tibetan material will be posted on dharmadictionary and similar places for public access. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Shad or no Shad

This issue came up recently on the dharmadictionary mailing lists as part of us starting to look into using Tibetan Unicode at the web site.

The issue is that should entries have an ending shad, as in རྩེ། or just be left without, as in རྩེ ?

རྩེ། by the way, means point, peak, top, summit.

Now, there are some dictionaries, such as the Chandra Das one, where the shad is not included. 

However, for most Tibetans not including the shad would look strange. Thus, as we really honor the culture and legacy of Tibetan writing, we decided to use shad at the end. It's a nice way to break the word or construct, as well, indicating where it ends. Naturally, this blog will also use this notation.

Tibetan Unicode Fonts and this Blog

I will start using Tibetan Unicode fonts in this blog from this time forward.

Here's an example: ཆོས། 

Why? Of many reasons:
  • It is much better to see the actual Tibetan words and letters instead of Wylie. The more you see them, the better.
  • It is really time for all of us to start using Tibetan on the computers now that it's feasible for anyone who really wants to do this.
  • I could easier do full conversions of Tibetan texts and use copy/paste of text material instead of using images.
  • Copy/paste will make it possible to copy parts to your documents, as well.
  • Finally when Google catches up you could do searches using Tibetan fonts, wow.
If you use Vista or Leopard (MacOSX 10.5) things should be fine. If you use Windows XP or Tiger (10.4), the stack alignment might look funny. Depending on the Windows installation it might either look fine or odd. Older systems and Linux systems, you need to figure out how to install a default Unicode Tibetan font and also configure various parts.

Anyway, Dharmadictionary is also switching over, slowly, to using Tibetan Fonts, see here for an example.

Anyway, feel free to put comments below in case you have issues or points about this switch. Depending on my schedule I might fix older entries, but there are over four hundred postings so I suspect it won't really happen all across all the postings, at least in the short term.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why are there twelve spheres - 3

To continue with the twelve spheres:

མ་འོངས་པ། ma 'ongs pa is future, the འི 'i at the end is a genitive particle that binds from right to left.

ཉེ་བར་སྤྱོད་པ། nye bar spyod pa is enjoyment,་རྣམ་པ། rnam pa is class or division.

དྲུག drug is number six. སྐྱེ་བ། skye ba is to arise, and again the 'i is a genitive particle binding from right to left.

སྒོ། sgo is a useful word, meaning door in the figurative sense, like a sense door. And you should know the 'i by now.

ཕྱིར། phyir is because. As this ends the whole sentence, we have the last letter doubling by the རོ ro construct.

All together, there's an entrance to the future sixfold experiences or enjoyments. Earlier we saw there were two parts, body (or really deha, the six objects, eye, ear, tongue, body and mental organ) and the objectification. Two times six means twelve.

Why are there twelve spheres - 2

To continue the explanation why exactly twelve spheres:

ལུས། lus here means body. དང། dang is a binding particle. We talked about ཡོངས་སུ་གཟུང་པ། yongs su gzung ba earlier; ཡོངས་སུ། yongs su is an expression, completely.གཟུང་བ། gzung ba is objectification, to grasp to objects. And this expression really has to do with sense objects and their objectification.

གཉིས། gnyis is two, or both, and་ཉིད། nyid means exactly, itself.

So we are again dealing with the body and the objectification via senses.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why are there twelve spheres - 1

Next in Abhidharma-Samuccaya is the issue why there is exactly twelve spheres.

ཅིའི་ཕྱིར། ci'i phyir is why.སྐྱེ་མཆེད། skye mched is sphere; with the plural particle རྣམས། rnams this becomes spheres.

བཅུ་གཉིས། bcu gnyis is twelve.

ཁོ་ན། kho na is only, ཞེ་ན། zhe na is what does it mean. Note that this the same pattern as with the earlier questions listed in this text.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why are there eighteen elements - Part 3

This is the second part for why there are eighteen elements.

འདས་པ། 'das pa here means past. དང་ dang is a conjunctive particle, translate it as 'and.'

ལྟར། ltar means likewise. གྱི་ gyi is a genitive particle.

ཉེ་བ། nye ba means close, to approach. The ར r is a general sub-ordination particle.

སྤོད་པ། spyod pa is a word used in many contexts, here it's engagement, to enact. Anyway, we need to read these two words together, as ཉེ་བར་སྤྱོད་པ། nye bar spyod pa means to use, to enjoy.

རྣམ་པ། rnam pa here is division or class. དྲུག drug is number six. འཛིན་པ།  'dzin pa means grasp, to hold on. It has a genitive particle at the end, འི 'i. ཕྱིར། phyir means because, and this is a proper sentence ending so it ends with རོ ro.

Anyway, I must confess that just looking at the Tibetan so far would be a very mysterious thing, unless one found out for example from a Sanskrit-Tibetan-Sanskrit dictionary that this all is really a translation for the following Sanskrit term: atitavartamanasadakaropabhogadharanata
What that word means is: the six consciousnesses, visual auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile and mental.

Or, to puzzle this together, this is the parts of past and current experiences via the six consciousnesses. As this adds together with the first twelve we mentioned earlier, we have eighteen elements.

Next, about the twelve sense spheres.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why are there eighteen elements - Part 2

This section will have three parts, in the second part here we will go through two thirds of the answer.

ལུས། lus means body. However, here it is actually the Tibetan word used for the Sanskrit term deha which is the six objects: eye, ear, tongue, body and mental organ.

དང་། dang is a particle, a conjunctive particle. As the name implies, there's a conjunction between the words to the right and what's on the left. So a translator should always use something that binds together. Using the word and is a good choice, using commas is less binding so I think that should not be used.

ཡོཨུངས་སུ། yongs su is an expression: completely.གཟུང་བ། gzung ba is objectification -- to apprehend an object, or to grasp to objects. However here it actually is referring to sense objects and their appropriation. The reason is that this whole part is a translation of the Sanskrit term parigraha which is the six objects: visible form, sound, odor, taste, tangibility and mental objects.

གཉིས། gnyis means two, ཀྱིས། kyis is an instrumental particle, translate here as by.

If you have kept count, we have the two, and each had six parts, so we are up to twelve, we need six more. That's in the next section, as well as it will have one of the longest Sanskrit terms I've personally ever encountered.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why are there eighteen elements?

Next Abhidharma-Samuccaya addresses why there are exactly eighteen elements.

ཅིའི་ཕྱིར། ci'i phyir is why. ཁམས། khams is element, རྣམས། rnams is plural ending, so we are dealing with elements.

བཅོ་བརྒྱད། bco brgyad is eighteen. ཁོ་ན། kho na is only, ཞེ་ན། zhe na is what does it mean.

Puzzling all this together and refining: Why are there only eighteen elements?

Next, this why is answered.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Self as basis for all

We are at the fifth and the last skandha, and why it exists.

བག་གི་གཞི། bdag gi gzhi is the basis of self.

དེ་དག de dag is all that.

གནས། gnas is a good word to memorize, here it means basis.

བརྗོད་པ། brjod pa is expression. It actually has a genitive particle at the end -- 'i -- and this ties to ཕྱིར། phyir, hence. It all also ends with the proper sentence ending vowel doubling, ro.

To translate this: self which is the basis of all that. To really understand this, Abhidharma-Samuccaya has a somewhat bias for the Mind Only world view representation. In this world view, there are seeds in the mind that ripens, stored in the storage house consciousness, and these ripening seeds trigger everything that is mentally experienced. Hence this last description for a skandha that should not be hard to figure out.

Next, we will find out the reason behind the amount of elements.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Self-Base as agent of intention

This is the fourth skandha emerging as a self-base, bdag gi zhi.

ཆོས། chos here is phenomena (dharma.) The next is an interesting twist, you need to be careful when translating. དང་། dang is a connection particle, ཆོས་མ་ཡིན་པ། chos ma yin pa is actually two parts, ཆོས། chos again, phenomena, and མ་ཡིན་པ། ma yin pa means does not exist. So this section is phenomena that exists or not. Or all that exists or does not exist.

མངོན་པ། mngon pa is here to appear, the r at the end is a sub-ordination particle, binding right to left.

འདུ་བྱེད་པ། 'du byed pa is in Sanskrit samskara, conditioning factors, intention, deciding on all what is good and what is bad. So here we are talking about an agent that decides what is good or not good for all phenomena. and བརྗོད་པ། brjod pa is expression.

So here the skandha is: an expression of an agent that decides what is good or bad resulting in a self-base. This is one way to translate it. But you could actually put together all kinds of personal translations based on the data provided. Sometimes you get deeper insights by playing around with the translation options.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Self-Base as Expression

To continue how the self appearance manifests via skandhas.

བདག་གི་ཞི། bdag gi zhi is the self-base, the foundation of self that will emerge.

ཐ་སྙད། tha snyad here is expression.

བརྗོད་པ། brjod pa is also expression. One has to be careful here, translating an expression of expressions sounds like a big mouthful.

So the easiest is to follow along with the simplified translation model and state: self as expression.

As for what skandha this reflects, one way is to think of something that is an expression that someone experiences around oneself...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Self-base as Experience

To continue with བདག་གི་གཞི། bdag gi gzhi, the five aspects. Now, sometimes it is interesting to improvise concerning translations. The earlier given translation, self-base, is one way to state it, or then base of self. But if we look at the word གཞི། gzhi, you could see that it has other variations, foundation, residence, basic nature. So you could create new translations, like a jazz player with chords, and see what resonates with you, as long as the usage of the word makes sense. Sometimes such personal translations are very powerful, for oneself, or maybe for others, too.

ལོངས་སྤྱོད། longs spyod is a word you could also see quite often, here it means actually experience, not enjoyment. And བརྗོད་པ། brjod pa is to be expressed.

So, one longer translation is the self-base expressed as experience. But you could actually make this just shorter and translate it as self as experience -- this assumes that the reader already was informed about the nature of self.

Again, using meditation you might get a connection between this self-base and the specific skandha.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Self as an Expression of Form

This is a somewhat longer sentence, but let's go through it. Look through the earlier postings to get more clues about the words used, as they are repeated in this listing of the five skandhas and the self appearance.

bdag gi gzhi is the self-base.

lus is body. yongs su is another good expression to learn: completely. Here I think these two reflects all physical objects, as lus could also be used for physical entities.

gzung ba here is perception (of objects), or the thing apprehended.

dang bcas pa is another good expression you will see a lot: together with, or accompanied by.

brjod pa is to express. dang is a particle that will bind this sentence with the other four parts that will come next.

If we put together all these separately translated parts, we could get something like: self as an expression of physical objects that are perceived.

Now, which skandha is this self-expression reflecting? There's a classical teaching trick where the someone is given enough clues, and with reflection and meditation it will become clear, as well as internalized.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Happy lo gsar

This is new year's eve in the Tibetan calendar, so happy ལོ་གསར། lo gsar (lo sar).
ལོ། lo means year, and གསར། gsar means new, so now some of you know three new words! This is a nice, simple word for anyone learning the Tibetan alphabet, too. The Tibetan calendar is based on the moon (lunar calendar), so hence the place of new year is based on the lunar state. Another important times are full moon, no moon, and the state transitions from waxing to waning. As the new moon starts tomorrow, the calendar month/year, starts, too. By the way, if you use Google calendar you could add a lunar calendar that shows the lunar states. Believe it or not, full moon is an interesting day/night.

Another online calendar good to consult is the FPMT dharma dates web site. This lists all the important dharma dates related to the Tibetan calender and the lunar positions. As you could see there, a lot of activities happen during full moon.

Anyway, harmonious wishes for the next year and in the future to everyone reading this blog. And to copy from the ལོ་གསར། message from Lama Zopa Rinpoche just sent out:

"The most happy thing in my life, the most fulfilling thing is to work for and to benefit sentient beings. Even just the mere thought to cause happiness to sentient beings, to benefit them, to free them from suffering - this is the BEST offering to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, this is the best offering, the best puja, this is what pleases their holy minds the most."
–Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Five Expressions of the Appearance of Self

OK, we will now go through how Abhidharma-Samuccaya describes why there are exactly five skandhas. There are five parts to it!

bdag gi gzhi is the self-base. This word will be used in all five parts. bdag is self, gi is a genitive particle binding right to left, and gzhi is base.

rnam pa is class, type, division. lnga is five, so this has to do with the five divisions of the self-base.

brjod pa is expression in this context. The 'i at the end is again a genitive particle that binds right to left. The right side is phyir, in order to, because. So this is: because of the expression, or due to expressing....

The last word, te, is a particle that shows that there's more to come, in other words, the reason why there are five expression of a self-base will be presented next.

Anyway, the self-base word is somewhat artificial in my taste, so I use the term appearance of self instead. So one way to translate this is, using the backwards reading technique good to use from time to time: Because of the five expressions (or methods) that self makes itself to appear.

That's what we will go through next, and it's not tough to already figure out that there's one expression of self that appears for each of the five skandhas. Anyway, the word appear here is important as it will not define that there's any self-existence -- self just appears, it does not exist from its own side.

Monday, February 04, 2008

bdag and bdag med, self and no-self

I think it's time to switch to lower gears now and then so anyone really new with Tibetan has a chance of a slower pace, so expect from time to time simpler postings just dealing with a keyword or key construct. As we will dwell more in self in the next postings of Abhidharma-Samuccaya, it's good to go through this word that you will encounter hundreds of times in most Tibetan Buddhist texts.

Self is bdag in Tibetan, atman in Sanskrit. Sometimes this is translated as ego, which sounds for me a little bit more like a western psychology term. It's also sometimes translated as soul, which for me is not really a good translation, but it's something that Westerners dealing with Western philosophies and religions might have a connection to.

A somewhat more clear position is to think of this as a self-existent identity, something that exists from its own side, and it is me.

The big debate in ancient India was between those who supported the idea of atman, self, and the Buddhists who subscribed to anatman, no-self, or bdag med in Tibetan. med is a negation, so adding it to bdag makes it the opposite of bdag. Actually, another Sanskrit term for this is nairātmya, and that should sound familiar for anyone studying the Hevajra tantra.

All Buddhist traditions subscribe to this term of anatman. Depending on the school, other Buddhist systems go further and even subscribe to the idea that there's nothing that is self-existent, no self-existent phenomena, no self-existent mind stream, nothing self-existent such as time, space, and so on.

As Abhidharma-Samuccaya is a Mahayana text, it both supports the notion of no self as well as no dependency to self-existent outer things. However, it has an emphasis on the Mind Only view where everything can be connected back to the observer, the mind, and how that triggers various experiences. More about that then much later in the text. Anyway, just by describing various mental processes as parts that interact with each other, and the superficial result appearing as something self-existent such as self, is one of the main purposes of this text.

The astute reader would notice that there's no long stroke (shah) in the first word. The reason is that Tibetans consider the long stroke in the letter ga to work as a stroke. It's a thing good to know as you could find sentence separators this way.

Next, we will indeed connect the notion of bdag (as well as bdag med) with the concept of the five skandhas.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Why are there exactly five skandhas?

We come now to really interesting definitions stated in Abhidharma-Samuaccya. This initial question is why are there exactly five skandhas, and the follow-up postings will then go through the answer to this question.

ci'i phyr is the word why. phung po is -- as discussed earlier -- heap (skandha). rnams is the plural ending so we are dealing with skandhas.

lnga is number five. kho na is just or exactly. zhe na is another good expression to learn, it means 'if someone asks why', or 'if one says so.' If you listen to a commentary you might also hear this expression when the Tibetan teacher is teaching.

So next we will unravel this mystery.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Third set of sense basis

This is the third set of the twelve sense bases.

lus is body so this is the body sense basis (kaya-ayatana.)

reg bya is touch so this is the touch sense basis (sprastavya-ayatana.)

yid is here mental organ so this is the mind sense basis (mana-ayatana.)

chos is here mental object so this is the mental object basis (dharma-ayatana.)

Some might wonder why it is so important to find and label various parts of the mental experience? It is really how a systems analyst works, in politics, software, organizations and so on. By finding out each logical part and how it all works together, the big picture emerges. In this case the answers are to be found later, and Abhidharma-Samuccaya will point out time after time: there's really nothing self-existent in the mental world. It is rather parts who work together, and each part is dependent on another part or parts.

We will see this next as Abhidharma-Samuccaya explains why there are exactly five skandhas, no more and no less.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Second Set of Sense Bases

As mentioned before, the words should be familiar, and if not, then just look through the recent blog entries where they are mentioned.

སྣ། sna is nose so this is the nose sense basis (ghrana-ayatana.)

དྲི། dri is odor so this is the odor sense basis (gandha-ayatana.)

ལྕེ། lce is tongue so this is the tongue sense basis (jihva-ayatana.)

རོ། ro is taste so this is the taste sense basis (rasa-ayatana.)

Now, Abhidharma-Samuccaya later describes what a sense basis really is. But it's good to know it already, instead of waiting for the hundredth or so blog posting before we reach that section.

The meaning of a sense basis (ayatana) is that it signifies a door in which the consciousness appears. If you look at the two pairs above, the nose sense basis and he odor sense basis are doors by which the the olfactory consciousness operates. Similarly, the tongue and taste sense bases operate as doors for the taste consciousness to operate.

Monday, January 28, 2008

First Four Sense Bases

As a lot of words we have gone through before, we will take four sense spheres at a time. If unsure, just go back in time in this blog and you will find the words described. Or those who have already read the earlier postings, this is a good time to see if you could recognize the words used in a somewhat different context!

mig is eye so the first is the eye sense base (caksur-ayatana.)

gzugs is form so the second is the form sense base (rupa-ayatana.)

rna ba is is ear so the third is the ear sense base (srotr-ayatana.)

sgra is sound so the fourth is the sound sense base (shabd-ayatana.)

I think you are already seeing a pattern, eye and form, ear and sound. Abhidharma-Samuccaya has more about this all then later.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Twelve Sense Bases

Next, Abhidharma-Samuccaya lists how many sense bases (or spheres as this is sometimes translated) there are, as well as each one.

skye mched is sense basis, sphere, ayatana in Sanskrit. We will get a better understanding of this after we have listed each one.

rnams is a plural ending, so this means that we are dealing with multiple spheres.

ni is an emphasis particle, it means that the right side will emphasize the left, i.e. how many are there.

bcu is ten. gnyis is two. bcu gnyis is twelve. If you now know bcu as ten, and the first nine numbers, you should now be able to count from one to nineteen.

te is the semi-final particle, it indicates that we will indeed list the twelve spheres or sense bases now. We will do three at a time, or so, as they will sound familiar.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mental Elements

Ok, we are down to the last three elements, and as mentioned before, the elements and various interactions will be explained later in Abhidharma-Samuccaya.

yid is mind (Sanskrit manas), or also you could say the mental organ or mental faculty, so yid kyi khams is the mind element or the mental organ element (mano-dhatu.) I think here the mental organ translation is better, as it reflects one of the six sense systems, where actually the mental organ is one of those.

chos, Sanskrit dharma, has many meanings, here it is related to mental objects, so chos kyi khams is mental object element (dharma-dhatu.)

yid kyi rnam par shes pa'i khams is then the mental consciousness element (mano-vijnana-dhatu.) As this is the ending of the long listing of the eighteen elements, the last word ends with an 'so construct.

The interesting observations here is that the mental senses are grouped into a triad of elements, where each one is needed for mental parts to be formed.

Next, we will start looking at spheres!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Body Elements

Ok, six more elements to go! lus is body (Sanskrit kaya), kyi is the genitive particle that binds right to left and khams is element. So this is the body element (kaya-dhatu.)

reg bya is touch or tangibility, the 'i is again the genitive particle, binding this to khams, so this is the tangibility element (sprastavya-dhatu).

lus is (as earlier) body, rnam par shes pa is consciousness, so this all is the body consciousness element (kaya-vijnana-dhatu.)

Later Abhidharma-Samuccaya will have a definition what touch really is, so that will be interesting.

I think you have grasped the Sanskrit also by now, so now you could show your talent and know what for example kaya-vijnana-dhatu really is, based on knowing each of these three separate words!

Next, a somewhat surprising set of elements.

Monday, January 14, 2008

How to Purify Elements - Offer Flowers

In case someone wonders how to get elements purified, here's one approach. Lotsawa House just announced a great translation of Teachings on the Offering of Flowers by Jikme Tenpe Nyima.

me tog is flower. rnams is the plural ending, so this is flowers.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Taste Elements

Next are the three elements associated with the taste sensation. lce is tongue, so lce'i khams is the tongue element (jihvad-dhatu.)

ro is taste, so ro'i khams is the taste element (rasa-dhatu.)

As we know that lce is tongue, then lce'i rnam par shes pa'i khams is the tongue consciousness element (jihva-vijnana-dhatu.)

This leads to an interesting observation. One of the main topics in this Abhidharma-Samuccaya is to show that there are really no self-existent things, such as a a self-existent taste universal. There are three factors involving, of which the tongue consciousness element is as important. It really means that there's nothing self-existent about what taste bad and what taste good. In real life this is easy to show, just check out how one dish is considered icky for someone, but a great delicacy for someone else.

It also means that there's really no limit to what someone could do concerning getting to a state where everything taste as bliss.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Collected Works of Third Karmapa available

Due to the kindness of Tsadra foundation, the collected works of the third Karmapa are available. See rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/3rd_Karmapa . This is the whole collection in PDF format. Most likely you need to install the Nitartha Sambhota font to read it.

Anyway, we are entering the golden age of material available on Internet, even whole collections of important teachers. We just need more translations now.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Nose Odor Olfactory Consciousness

Next is a triad related to smelling. sna is nose, the 'i is a genitive particle that binds khams, element to the nose, so we have the nose element (in Sanskrit ghrana-dhatu.)

dri is smell, or odor, so this is the odor element (gandha-dhatu.)

sna'i rnam par shes pa is the olfactory consciousness, so with khams this is the olfactory consciousness element (ghrana-vijnana-dhatu.)

Isn't this an interesting way to learn Tibetan words about various body parts and senses?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ear Audio Auditory Consciousness

And now to my favorite triad of elements. rna ba is ear, the 'i is the genitive particle that binds khams, element, to rna ba. So this is the ear element (srotra-dhatu.)

sgra is sound, and you should recognize the genitive particle now, as a well as khams, so this is the sound element (shabda-dhatu.)

rna ba'i rnam par shes pa is auditory consciousness so this is the auditory consciousness element (srotra-vijnana-dhatu).

Does the pattern start to look familiar? We will go through the five + one more sense when dealing with the eighteen elements.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Form and Visual Consciousness Elements

Actually the elements have groupings of three parts, as we will notice next. gzhugs here is form, so gzhugs gi khams is form element, rupadhatu. This is in the context of visual form and not 'matter.' dang then binds to the next listing.

mig is eye or visual and rnam par shes pa is consciousness (Sanskrit vijnana.) Remember this word as it will show up multiple times when listing the elements. Thus, mig gi rnam par shes pa is visual consciousness (caksurvijnanadhatu.)

The 'i is a genitive particle binding khams, element to the left side, so this is the visual consciousness element.

We had before mig gi khams, eye element. Thus you could see that these elements have a grouping of a physical entity (eye) that is registering something (form) and is using a consciousness (visual consciousness), all together. In other words, all three have to work together for a form to be realized as visually seen.

We will go through the next elements in combinations of three.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

mig gi khams - Eye Element

Let's start slowly and just take one or more elements in the beginning, and then later go through more elements.

མིག mig means eye (caksur.) གི gi is a genitive particle which binds the right to the left.་ཁམས། khams is element (dhatu.) So this is the eye element, caksurdhatu in Sanskrit.

Theདང། dang here is again a conjuctive particle; as we will list 18 elements, this particle is used in the listing.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

khams bco brgyad - Eighteen Elements

The next lists how many elements are there, and after this all the elements are listed.

khams is element, rnams is the plural ending, so khams rnams is elements.

ni is an emphatic particle, so it's emphasizing the right side with the left.

bco brgyad is eighteen. de is another particle, the semi-final particle, this will tie together this statement with the listing of the eighteen elements.

So that's what we will do next, as the individual elements will introduce a lot of practical nouns that is good to learn in Tibetan!