What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

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What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby wangdak » Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:31 pm

Hi,
I usually do most of my practices in Tibetan but I still wonder, what is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan for Westerners?
I mean for Westerners who cannot speak and read in Tibetan. Its seems, that most of traditional teachers stress to chant in Tibetan but I never heard satisfactory explanation - why to do so...? Is it because Tibetan is so profound dharma language? Is it about sound of Tibetan? Are all these worth it as replacement for understanding what I am actually reading?

:namaste:
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby practitioner » Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:50 pm

I like chanting in Tibetan because most of the sadhanas and monlams etc. are written in verse and therefore are very beautiful sounding in the Tibetan as opposed to the English translations which can be clunky sounding. Of course it is essential to know and understand what you are chanting otherwise you are just making noises. My gurus advise their students to do whichever is more comfortable for them.
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby ngodrup » Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:58 pm

These words were used by many -- over generations-- in many cases
to accomplish realizations. Thus they carry blessings.

Of course if you don't understand what they mean...
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby tamm » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:14 pm

For me I enjoy chanting in the Tibetan so much more than reading through in English! Like practitioner said, the melodies really make a difference from just reading the English out loud; especially because the ones I do are long melodies. I find that when I do my practices in Tibetan I can focus much clearer on the visualizations. When I do them in English I've noticed I just kind of clunk down the page and don't pay much attention to what I'm actually saying. I like to read over practices many, many times and memorize the English and then work on memorizing the Tibetan. This is all just my personal preference though!
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby wangdak » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:26 pm

tamm wrote:For me I enjoy chanting in the Tibetan so much more than reading through in English! Like practitioner said, the melodies really make a difference from just reading the English out loud; especially because the ones I do are long melodies. I find that when I do my practices in Tibetan I can focus much clearer on the visualizations. When I do them in English I've noticed I just kind of clunk down the page and don't pay much attention to what I'm actually saying. I like to read over practices many, many times and memorize the English and then work on memorizing the Tibetan. This is all just my personal preference though!


Well, how long texts can you memorize? For example, I cannot imagine, I am going to memorize Protectors practice. Its too long. :tongue:
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby Knotty Veneer » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:45 pm

wangdak wrote:Hi,
I usually do most of my practices in Tibetan but I still wonder, what is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan for Westerners?
I mean for Westerners who cannot speak and read in Tibetan. Its seems, that most of traditional teachers stress to chant in Tibetan but I never heard satisfactory explanation - why to do so...? Is it because Tibetan is so profound dharma language? Is it about sound of Tibetan? Are all these worth it as replacement for understanding what I am actually reading?


Well some groups (Shambhala and NKT come immediately to mind) don't chant in Tibetan but in the vernacular. I think there are several reasons why many/most Tibetan Buddhists in the West chant in Tibetan:

  • The texts were written by enlightened teachers and their words carry great blessing
  • Often verse translation into English or other languages do not really work so well
  • Tibetans facing the destruction of their culture are keen not to see Dharma texts circulated in other languages in case the original is eventually lost.

I like the idea of a liturgical language personally but there is no point in chanting in Tibetan if you do not know what it means. You might as well sit there and chant rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb. You have to make use of a translation to know what you are chanting at which point in the text. This doesn't mean you need to learn classical Tibetan but I think it helps to know a little.
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby tamm » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:45 pm

wangdak wrote:
tamm wrote:For me I enjoy chanting in the Tibetan so much more than reading through in English! Like practitioner said, the melodies really make a difference from just reading the English out loud; especially because the ones I do are long melodies. I find that when I do my practices in Tibetan I can focus much clearer on the visualizations. When I do them in English I've noticed I just kind of clunk down the page and don't pay much attention to what I'm actually saying. I like to read over practices many, many times and memorize the English and then work on memorizing the Tibetan. This is all just my personal preference though!


Well, how long texts can you memorize? For example, I cannot imagine, I am going to memorize Protectors practice. Its too long. :tongue:


I memorized my lineage prayer and most of my chod verses. I'm also trying with my yidam practice, but I always seem to have a hard time with memorizing the last parts! All in all it's a handful of pages, nothing too fancy!
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby wangdak » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:59 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:
wangdak wrote:Hi,
I usually do most of my practices in Tibetan but I still wonder, what is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan for Westerners?
I mean for Westerners who cannot speak and read in Tibetan. Its seems, that most of traditional teachers stress to chant in Tibetan but I never heard satisfactory explanation - why to do so...? Is it because Tibetan is so profound dharma language? Is it about sound of Tibetan? Are all these worth it as replacement for understanding what I am actually reading?


Well some groups (Shambhala and NKT come immediately to mind) don't chant in Tibetan but in the vernacular. I think there are several reasons why many/most Tibetan Buddhists in the West chant in Tibetan:

  • The texts were written by enlightened teachers and their words carry great blessing
  • Often verse translation into English or other languages do not really work so well
  • Tibetans facing the destruction of their culture are keen not to see Dharma texts circulated in other languages in case the original is eventually lost.

I like the idea of a liturgical language personally but there is no point in chanting in Tibetan if you do not know what it means. You might as well sit there and chant rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb. You have to make use of a translation to know what you are chanting at which point in the text. This doesn't mean you need to learn classical Tibetan but I think it helps to know a little.


Yes, it does make sense. Thank you. Most of my texts are in bilingual version (TIB-EN) but it is really hard to chant in Tibetan and follow the meaning by looking at english translation below...can you do that? :reading:
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby wangdak » Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:02 pm

tamm wrote:I memorized my lineage prayer and most of my chod verses. I'm also trying with my yidam practice, but I always seem to have a hard time with memorizing the last parts! All in all it's a handful of pages, nothing too fancy!


Well, I know by memory lineage prayers and supplications too. :smile: But I rather meant sadhana practices or protectors practices. In general, long practices.
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby Norwegian » Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:06 pm

Some practices should be done in original language. Mantras, and supplications (and also like mentioned, protector practice) for example.

Of course it's well advised to know the essence/meaning of what you're chanting anyways.

wangdak,

With some time, you'll know both the text in Tibetan - for chanting - as well as knowing the translated meaning of it. It just takes time and practice.
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:07 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:
Well some groups (Shambhala and NKT come immediately to mind) don't chant in Tibetan but in the vernacular. I think there are several reasons why many/most Tibetan Buddhists in the West chant in Tibetan:


This is only partially true.

Some groups do indeed chant sadhanas in modern languages but still chant mantras in Sanskrit or Tibetan.

I prefer the Sanskrit IF it is the original. However, some mantras such as Garuda mantras using KHROM (pronounced TROM) are using a Tibetan seed syllable which is not taken from the Sanskrit.

I believe that if you receive the transmission of a practice then you have permission to chant both Sanskrit and Tibetan versions.

Again a personal view - I see no advantage in chanting in Tibetan instead of Sanskrit. often the Tibetans did so as they could not pronounce the Sanskrit, hence 'Benza' instead of 'Vajra'. This isn't bad translation, just mispronunciation. However, this does not hold true of chanting mantras in, say, English, as there is translation, open to error.

A final reason is that traditionally transmission is oral, and the sounds themselves are considered to have power. This is one reason why we need to receive a mantra from a Guru who has learned through one of the traditions - authentic sounds. Om Ah Hum is a basic mantra, without standard translation and yet considered to have great power.

Even with Om Ah Hum the critical element is not the root language nor the pronunciation, but the confidence of the practitioner. 'Confidence' is an excellent word I picked up from Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. It is less emotive and confusing as a term than 'faith'.

Generate Bodhichitta, have confidence, and let rip! LOL :)
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby Knotty Veneer » Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:15 pm

wangdak wrote:Yes, it does make sense. Thank you. Most of my texts are in bilingual version (TIB-EN) but it is really hard to chant in Tibetan and follow the meaning by looking at english translation below...can you do that? :reading:


Sure. If you do it often enough (doing your daily sadhana for example) you'll be able to either chant the tibetan knowing what the english is at which point or chant the tibetan by heart and read the english as you go. If I am doing a new practice I make sure I read thru the translation regularly and get a good idea of the meaning. Then when I am chanting I concentrate on the Tibetan. Eventually the words and the general meaning come together over time.

Response to Blue Garuda:

You're right of course - mantras are never translated.

I must admit I prefer the Tibetanized Sanskrit. I once visited an FWBO center where they chanted OM MANI PADME HUM instead of OM MANI PEME HUNG - it just didn't sound right to me. I was told that you should chant the mantra as pronounced when transmitted in the lung you received for the practice. But I am sure it's not a big issue - as you say it is all about the "confidence".
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby conebeckham » Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:58 pm

wangdak wrote:
tamm wrote:I memorized my lineage prayer and most of my chod verses. I'm also trying with my yidam practice, but I always seem to have a hard time with memorizing the last parts! All in all it's a handful of pages, nothing too fancy!


Well, I know by memory lineage prayers and supplications too. :smile: But I rather meant sadhana practices or protectors practices. In general, long practices.


Traditionally, in monasteries, monks spend much of their time memorizing just such "long practices."

For example, in the Karma Kagyu Tradition, one would memorize, say, the first 1/3 of Phagmo Druptap--which runs to about 120 Tibetan Pecha pages...so, 40 pages, and then would be tested. If they passed the test, they would be exempt from, say, cleaning latrines. This could occur by age 10 or so, sometimes earlier.....when you have 2/3, or 80 pages, under your belt, and pass the exam, you're exempt from Cooking the Soup, or Making the Tea, or whatnot.

In the monasteries, the daily and monthly practices are usually done without any texts whatsoever, except the Umdze may have one, perhaps.

So, it's possible, and even likely, that native practitioners memorize their "lengthy yidam and protector practices." Later on, in the late teens or twenties, when and if a monk enters into "Drupdra" (three year retreat) they would already have the majority of their practices memorized.
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby conebeckham » Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:01 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:You're right of course - mantras are never translated.


Mostly. There are exceptions--the most famous being the 21 praises to Tara, which is essentially a "Zung," or Dharani.
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:15 pm

I read somewhere that Tibetan is now an accepted 'Dharma language' (like Sanskrit and Pali) due to the number of enlightened beings who have used it.

I think it is nonsense, since there is no actual number of enlightened beings stated to surpass before gaining accreditation (by whom?)

Were it true then there are other claimants, but English is unlikely to be one! LOL :)
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby tamm » Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:23 pm

conebeckham wrote:
wangdak wrote:
tamm wrote:I memorized my lineage prayer and most of my chod verses. I'm also trying with my yidam practice, but I always seem to have a hard time with memorizing the last parts! All in all it's a handful of pages, nothing too fancy!


Well, I know by memory lineage prayers and supplications too. :smile: But I rather meant sadhana practices or protectors practices. In general, long practices.


Traditionally, in monasteries, monks spend much of their time memorizing just such "long practices."

For example, in the Karma Kagyu Tradition, one would memorize, say, the first 1/3 of Phagmo Druptap--which runs to about 120 Tibetan Pecha pages...so, 40 pages, and then would be tested. If they passed the test, they would be exempt from, say, cleaning latrines. This could occur by age 10 or so, sometimes earlier.....when you have 2/3, or 80 pages, under your belt, and pass the exam, you're exempt from Cooking the Soup, or Making the Tea, or whatnot.

In the monasteries, the daily and monthly practices are usually done without any texts whatsoever, except the Umdze may have one, perhaps.

So, it's possible, and even likely, that native practitioners memorize their "lengthy yidam and protector practices." Later on, in the late teens or twenties, when and if a monk enters into "Drupdra" (three year retreat) they would already have the majority of their practices memorized.


I'm always so awed by other people's ability! I have probably a good 15 min. worth of practices memorized (in Tibetan). I am now more motivated to memorize even more! I hope that people can continue to comment on this because I was just talking to someone else about the place of language in religion and how changes in how we talk can be observed in that context.
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby wangdak » Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:50 pm

Allright, now the question is what is the best why to memorize Tibetan? Just reading it loudly all over again, again and again? :reading: Gosh!
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby dharmagoat » Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:53 pm

wangdak wrote:Allright, now the question is what is the best why to memorize Tibetan? Just reading it loudly all over again, again and again?

It is fairly straightforward to learn the meaning of Tibetan words without a knowledge of Tibetan grammar. Assigning meaning to the words not only allows you to understand the text better, but also makes it easier to memorise.

I have found the best way to memorise a text is to work on it line by line, revising all that I have learned as I go.
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby conebeckham » Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:55 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
wangdak wrote:Allright, now the question is what is the best why to memorize Tibetan? Just reading it loudly all over again, again and again?

It is fairly straightforward to learn the meaning of Tibetan words without a knowledge of Tibetan grammar. Assigning meaning to the words not only allows you to understand the text better, but also makes it easier to memorise.

I have found the best way to memorise a text is to work on it line by line, revising all that I have learned as I go.



Yep.
In a word, the answer to your question is--"practice!"
:smile:
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Re: What is a benefit of chanting in Tibetan?

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:07 pm

conebeckham wrote:

Yep.
In a word, the answer to your question is--"practice!"
:smile:


I wish it were that simple.

I used to have a near photographic memory and came top in the UK for several exams.

Now I can't remember sadhanas even when I have practised with them for decades.

The Migtsema Prayer, the Medicine Buddha Dharani and mantras - that's my limit.

Time can reinforce the memory - it can also turn it to mush. I'm lucky - I can look at the text and get along just fine, so I have them all on my phone and PC as well as paper copies. Now, where did I leave that phone? LOL :)
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