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 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.