reciting in tibetan

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reciting in tibetan

Postby lama tsewang » Mon May 13, 2013 9:58 pm

What is the importance of reciting prayers in Tibetan?
Most of the Mahayana Dharma was written first in Sanskrit, but Tibetan
writing was invented for the purposes of translating Buddhism. While
Tibetan has a very close affinity to Sanskrit, Tibetan also originated
out of the compassionate wishes bodhisattvas have for sentient beings.
If one recites prayers in Tibetan, they have great blessings. Another
reason to recite in Tibetan in the context of the Kagyu Monlam is that
it is easiest if we all recite in the same language.

The above is a quote from the North America Kagyu Monlam website. What do others here , think of this statement ,
Do you agree with this , or do you think its better that we recite in English
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon May 13, 2013 11:01 pm

I think that ultimately it is unimportant what language you recite in, what is of importance (for me) is that you understand what you are reciting.
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon May 13, 2013 11:33 pm

I like doing both, mainly because so far I have not seen a way of melodicizing (is that a word lol) the english versions, and for me concentration is easier with sound directed into melodic form, rather than just recited.

Seems like there should be room for both English and Tibetan, as long as the meaning can be there..regarding the statement though..does that mean that prayers don't carry the same blessing when recited in English, or that they carry less somehow?

I'd point out, most sadhanas i've seen are a combo of english, tibetan and sanskrit, presumably ones made for the western world anyway, obviously.
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Tue May 14, 2013 12:30 am

I personally like reciting the texts in Tibetan, and I agree it is the language of choice at Monlams.

However I see this rather as a historic phase than a religious necessity. And I don't agree with many of the reasons given by some Tibetan lamas. Some seem to believe that Tibetan is somehow holier than other languages, or more refined, which honestly I believe is a bit of cultural chauvinism.

And this

While Tibetan has a very close affinity to Sanskrit


is just simply not true. The Tibetan alphabet is based on the Indian Brahmi script, true, but the Tibetan language itself belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, while Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family, which is itself a subset of the Indo-European languages. In fact, from a linguistic point of view, Greek and German are much closer related to Sanskrit than Tibetan. Especially Ancient Greek and Sanskrit have extremely similar grammars. :thumbsup:
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby lama tsewang » Tue May 14, 2013 6:18 am

in my opinion the quotation i took off the website, is a very very serious wrong view
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby heart » Tue May 14, 2013 10:12 am

gregkavarnos wrote:I think that ultimately it is unimportant what language you recite in, what is of importance (for me) is that you understand what you are reciting.


I agree, well said!

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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby Aemilius » Tue May 14, 2013 11:07 am

lama tsewang wrote:in my opinion the quotation i took off the website, is a very very serious wrong view


I agree that it is a wrong view. Dharma was in the beginning an oral tradition. It was spoken. It was transmitted as an oral tradition. Buddha and his disciples taught in something like 16 or more states of ancient India. They expressed the Dharma in many different languages and regional dialects. The written teachings appeared later, gradually, in the course of hundreds of years. They appeared in different languages. The chinese monk and translator Hsuan Tsang
(602 - 664) says that there were in India four Canons of the different schools of Sravakayana, each containing 300 000 verses, plus the Canon of the Mahayana. Sutras and commentaries have gone through a long way of progress, before appearing in a written form in a particular language.
I agree that each language is a world in itself. Different meanings and different habitual tendencies exist in the language itself. You have access to a unique mental world through a language.
Dharma is something to be understood individually. Language has no substantial existence. Language substantialism is a wrong view that is attacked and refuted in the Lankavatara sutra.
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue May 14, 2013 12:02 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:I think that ultimately it is unimportant what language you recite in, what is of importance (for me) is that you understand what you are reciting.


I agree that it is of fundamental importance that you understand what you are doing. However, for chanting I think Tibetan is superior because of the meter that texts are written in.
Whenever I would hear the Vajradhatu chanting in (non-metered) English with the same monotone as one would chant Tibetan it would send me into fits of giggles that would sometimes take me hours to recover from. This is not particularly conducive to samadhi.
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby yegyal » Tue May 14, 2013 12:44 pm

ReasonAndRhyme wrote:I personally like reciting the texts in Tibetan, and I agree it is the language of choice at Monlams.

However I see this rather as a historic phase than a religious necessity. And I don't agree with many of the reasons given by some Tibetan lamas. Some seem to believe that Tibetan is somehow holier than other languages, or more refined, which honestly I believe is a bit of cultural chauvinism.

And this

While Tibetan has a very close affinity to Sanskrit


is just simply not true. The Tibetan alphabet is based on the Indian Brahmi script, true, but the Tibetan language itself belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, while Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family, which is itself a subset of the Indo-European languages. In fact, from a linguistic point of view, Greek and German are much closer related to Sanskrit than Tibetan. Especially Ancient Greek and Sanskrit have extremely similar grammars. :thumbsup:


But written/classical Tibetan is based on Sanskrit grammar. It's not a perfect carbon copy, but it does attempt to follow the vibakti system. So while your statement is true in regards to colloquial Tibetan, it's not necessarily so in regards to written Tibetan.
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Tue May 14, 2013 3:16 pm

yegyal wrote:But written/classical Tibetan is based on Sanskrit grammar. It's not a perfect carbon copy, but it does attempt to follow the vibakti system. So while your statement is true in regards to colloquial Tibetan, it's not necessarily so in regards to written Tibetan.


Really? Afaik classical Tibetan belongs to the sino-sibetan language family just as much as colloquial Tibetan. :shrug:

I'm certainly not an expert on Sanskrit or classical Tibetan, but afaik the Tibetan translations of Sanskrit texts try to imitate the syntactical structure as far as possible, but still classical Tibetan is a particle based grammar, whereas Sanskrit grammar is based on declination and conjugation.

Some grammar books speak of cases in Tibetan grammar, but actually that is an outdated concept that was some attempt to impose the structure of Indo-European languages on Tibetan grammar which made it completely impossible to understand how Tibetan grammar works. At least that's what my teachers told me at my local University when I attended some classes in classical Tibetan as a guest student. There are no cases like nominative, genitive, dative, accusative in Tibetan grammar - neither colloquial nor classic. There are particles like the la don, the drel dra and so on.

But Sanskrit on the other hand has all these cases and times European languages use to have, they even have the aorist, the optative, the dualis, the medium like in Ancient Greek - and some more that even Ancient Greek doesn't have. So if you directly translate from Sanskrit to European languages no brushing the grammar up the wrong way is needed...
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby conebeckham » Tue May 14, 2013 3:43 pm

Tibetan grammar isn't really based on Sanskrit grammar, though there are a few similarities. They are, indeed, from different language families.

Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche expressly stressed learning and practicing in Tibetan, especially for the practices done in retreat. However he also had English practice sessions instituted at his centers, I believe. All of this was skillful means--many of our best translators were his disciples.

Most of the practices we recite were written in Tibetan, by Tibetans, though there are portions of sadhanas and prayers that were translated from Indian languages. When sadhanas are composed in English, by masters who speak English, or any other language, it will be wonderful.

At the Kagyu Monlams I've attended, there are sections of Sanskrit chanting every morning--quite beautiful! There' s also at least one prayer recitation in English, and in Chinese as well.
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby conebeckham » Tue May 14, 2013 4:23 pm

Just to clarify my previous post a bit further...

Original poster writes that much of the Mahayana Dharma was written in Sanskrit, and translated to Tibetan. I agree, obviously. But we don't recite a lot of "Mahayana Dharma," in most Tibetan lineages. In my experience, at least, we're reciting texts written by Tibetans. All the Termas were certainly not written in Sanskrit, for instance. Most of the Sarma sadhanas, for that matter, were not either.....though there are portions--7 limb prayer from the Avatamsaka Sutra, I think would be the most obvious example--that were translated into Tibetan, and are common to many Sadhanas.
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby yegyal » Tue May 14, 2013 10:58 pm

ReasonAndRhyme wrote:
yegyal wrote:But written/classical Tibetan is based on Sanskrit grammar. It's not a perfect carbon copy, but it does attempt to follow the vibakti system. So while your statement is true in regards to colloquial Tibetan, it's not necessarily so in regards to written Tibetan.


Really? Afaik classical Tibetan belongs to the sino-sibetan language family just as much as colloquial Tibetan. :shrug:

I'm certainly not an expert on Sanskrit or classical Tibetan, but afaik the Tibetan translations of Sanskrit texts try to imitate the syntactical structure as far as possible, but still classical Tibetan is a particle based grammar, whereas Sanskrit grammar is based on declination and conjugation.

Some grammar books speak of cases in Tibetan grammar, but actually that is an outdated concept that was some attempt to impose the structure of Indo-European languages on Tibetan grammar which made it completely impossible to understand how Tibetan grammar works. At least that's what my teachers told me at my local University when I attended some classes in classical Tibetan as a guest student. There are no cases like nominative, genitive, dative, accusative in Tibetan grammar - neither colloquial nor classic. There are particles like the la don, the drel dra and so on.

But Sanskrit on the other hand has all these cases and times European languages use to have, they even have the aorist, the optative, the dualis, the medium like in Ancient Greek - and some more that even Ancient Greek doesn't have. So if you directly translate from Sanskrit to European languages no brushing the grammar up the wrong way is needed...


With all due respect there most certainly are cases in Tibetan. In fact, drel dra ('bral sgra) is the genitive case. And though it is true that Sanskrit grammar was super-imposed onto Tibetan, which nobody is denying belongs to a different language group, traditional literary Tibetan grammar is still taught in terms of "cases," as it has been for over a thousand years.
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby byamspa » Wed May 15, 2013 11:22 pm

In my sangha, we do both. We recite kind of like sandwich of Tibetan-English-Tibetan on anything that is repeated more than once.

For longer sadhanas we do as a group, English recitation is faster than Tibetan, so for time constraints, we may do the really long ones in English except for mantras and certain prayers like 7-line prayer.
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby yegyal » Thu May 16, 2013 3:35 am

ReasonAndRhyme wrote:
yegyal wrote:But written/classical Tibetan is based on Sanskrit grammar. It's not a perfect carbon copy, but it does attempt to follow the vibakti system. So while your statement is true in regards to colloquial Tibetan, it's not necessarily so in regards to written Tibetan.


Really? Afaik classical Tibetan belongs to the sino-sibetan language family just as much as colloquial Tibetan. :shrug:

I'm certainly not an expert on Sanskrit or classical Tibetan, but afaik the Tibetan translations of Sanskrit texts try to imitate the syntactical structure as far as possible, but still classical Tibetan is a particle based grammar, whereas Sanskrit grammar is based on declination and conjugation.

Some grammar books speak of cases in Tibetan grammar, but actually that is an outdated concept that was some attempt to impose the structure of Indo-European languages on Tibetan grammar which made it completely impossible to understand how Tibetan grammar works. At least that's what my teachers told me at my local University when I attended some classes in classical Tibetan as a guest student. There are no cases like nominative, genitive, dative, accusative in Tibetan grammar - neither colloquial nor classic. There are particles like the la don, the drel dra and so on.

But Sanskrit on the other hand has all these cases and times European languages use to have, they even have the aorist, the optative, the dualis, the medium like in Ancient Greek - and some more that even Ancient Greek doesn't have. So if you directly translate from Sanskrit to European languages no brushing the grammar up the wrong way is needed...


Since you seem to be interested in grammar, which I doubt anybody else is, (and I promise to shut up about it after this) here's a link to a good overview of Tibetan case system by one of the best in the field.

http://www.linguistics.ucsb.edu/Himalay ... J0902C.pdf
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Re: reciting in tibetan

Postby Aemilius » Thu May 16, 2013 10:00 am

According to the little I have studied of linguistic typology german is much closer to sanskrit than is tibetan. It would be a good idea to gain some knowledge of linguistic typology, it is a fascinating area for study:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_typology
http://www.omniglot.com/

best wishes!
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