One of the great merits of Tibetan is that the verb of existence is not also a linking verb. Predication is not confusingly mixed with existence in Tibetan. A linking verb is also known as a copulative verb. Linking verbs connect subjects to predicates. This can be known as predication.
In English, if you say, “a shape is a form”, this can imply that “a shape” exists while also stating that “a shape” is a form. In Tibetan, these two meanings are not linked. One can discuss existence separate from qualities. In English, “is” means both 1) to exist, and 2) has the quality of being. For example, in English, we can say both I think therefore I am and I am a human being.
Why does this matter? Because in Buddhist philosophy, there are many things that are existents (that is, objects of knoweldge) but of which being them is not possible (i.e., cannot be the complement of a predication statement). For example, the two--pillar and pot (ཀ་བུམ་གཉིས་) is an existent, yet there is nothing that is the two--pillar and pot.
Just for fun, here is the classic consequence.
It follows that the subject, the two, a pillar and a pot, is an object of knowledge the being of which does not occur.
Thus we can say ཀ་བུམ་གཉིས་ཡོད། (pillar and pot, the two, exists). But we cannot say ཀ་བུམ་གཉིས་ཡིན། because there is nothing that can be said to have the quality of being pillar and pot, the two. Both pillar and pot exist, yet nothing can be both pillar and pot.
A note about ཡིན་ statements and predication. If you see a copulative statement with only one term, the term has to be the complement (the “B” in “A B is” or “A is B”). Thus in the sentence above, ཀ་བུམ་གཉིས་ཡིན།, we know that ཀ་བུམ་གཉིས་ is the complement of the linking verb with the general syntax SUBJECT → COMPLEMENT → ← LINKING VERB. The subject would then be implied or need to be infered from context. In this case, there is no subject of which one can say SUBJECT-ཀ་བུམ་གཉིས་ཡིན།
Some simple examples of verbs of existence:
NOMINATIVE → ← VERB.
གཟུགས་ཡོད། Forms exist.
ང་ཡོད། I exist.
ཆོས་ཀྱི་བདག་མེད། Self of phenomena do not exist.
Before we get too excited about Tibetan using different verbs for linking and existence, we should also realize that Tibetean does use the same verb for existence and possession. This, however, is not nearly as philosophicaly confusing and the two uses are easily differentiated.
Qualifiers are “words, phrases, and clauses that qualify the action expressed by the verb by showing how, when, where, why, for whose benefit, and the like” (Preston, How To Read Classical Tibetan by Craig Preston, pp. 43).
Qualifiers modify the meaning of a sentence, and are typically:
Any sentence at any time can have one or more qualifiers. Qualifiers can be marked with almost any case particle. Not all sentences have qualifiers, but some verbs require qualifiers to express their complete meaning.
The most basic syntax is:
QUALIFIER → SUBJECT → ← VERB
However, qualifiers can appear almost anywhere in a Tibetan sentence, which in Classical Tibetan tend to be long and more like English paragraphs, and there can be multiple qualifiers in a single sentence.
QUALIFIER + SUBJECT + VERB and SUBJECT + QUALIFIER + VERB are both OK. A complement of a linking verb, however, cannot be stated before the subject of a linking verb—that order is fixed. Where the order is not fixed, placing something first may indicate emphasis.
These two demonstrate the use of the 7th case (locative) qualifier marking place of existence:
There are mountains in Tibet.
Bodhisattvas exist in Tibet.
Remember that when you see a ལ་, it can mark the second, fourth, or seventh case (objective, beneficial, and locative). A ལ་ following a verb can also be used conjunctively or disjucntively (Wilson pp. 677).
In most instances, a noun or pronoun followed by a ལ་ in a sentence ending in ཡོད་ is marking the locative case indicating possession or place of existence.
The sentence structure for possession and place of existence is exactly the same. In some ways, they could be thought of as the same. For Tibet, mountains exist. For me, a pen exists. However, in Tibetan only persons are understood as possessing things, as such when this structure is used with non-persons, it is interpreted as place of existence. When it is used with persons, it is interpreted as possession.
Generally speaking, subjects of the verb come first. However that is not always the case, as seen above.
Here is an adverbial qualifier:
Phenomena do not truly exist.
The pot truly exists. Pots truly exist.
This one is a qualifier stating a condition:
If sound were impermanent, …
The next one demonstrates the use of a syntactic particle to create a present participle (according to Craig Preston) or a gerund (according to Hackett in the Verb Lexicon) – བསྟན་ནས་, having taught:
Buddha, having taught the doctrine, …
Verbs of existence, such as ཡོད་, have no objects—they do not perform an action on something else. They also do not have complements as do linking verbs. Verbs of existence cannot say that something is something else. They do frequently have qualifiers, however.
The pot is here. There is a pot here.
Verbs of existence can also have adverbial qualifiers.
The pot truly exists. Pots truly exist.
To negate ཡོད།, use མེད།
The pot does not truly exists.
Other verbs of existence include འདུག་, མཆིས, གདའ་, and མངའ་.
འདུག་ may also mean to sit in place--as, for example, in the discussion of a meditative posture. In colloquial it is used extensively as an is verb with the inflection of showing something that a person has first-hand knoweldge of. There are nomads in Tibet (I saw them personally). Learning Tibetan is fun. (I know because I am doing it).
In a literary context, you may see འདུག་ in the same contexts in which you see ཡོད་, and also used as a verbal modifier used to intensify other verbs. You may see ཡིན་པར་འདུག་, where the addition of འདུག་ is read as emphasizing or adding certainty to the verb.
མཆིས་, མ་མཆིས་ are used to mean the same as ཡོད་ and མེད་
There are five agentive case marking particles: གིས་, ཀྱིས་, གྱིས་, འིས་, ཡིས་
They have three uses as case marking particles:
There are also common non-case uses. As syntactic particles, they may mark adverbs; they may function like the connective particles as conjunctions; and they are used with some verbs (such as སྟོང་, is empty) to mark the object absent.
Agentive verbs are the strongest way to express action in Tibetan. There are two types of agentive verbs in Tibetan:
Class V – agentive-nominative verbs (such as བསྟན་, teach)
Class VI – agentive-objective verbs (such as ལྟ་, look)
Buddha taught the doctrine.
The ཀྱིས་ after སངས་རྒྱས་ (buddha) marks it as being in the agentive case, or as the agent of the verb བསྟན (teach).
He looked at forms.
Above the ས་ is the agentive case marking particle.
གིས་ used after finaly syllable ending in ག་, ང་
ཀྱིས་ used after finaly syllable ending in ད་, བ་, ས་
གྱིས་ used after finaly syllable ending in ན་, མ་, ར་, ལ་
འིས་ merges with final syllable འ་ or no suffix (འི is lost, just add ས་)
ཡིས་ used after final syllable འ་ or no suffix
The la group particles (སུ་, རུ་, ར་, ཏུ་, དུ་, ན་, ལ་) are used to mark the second, fourth, and seventh case.
They have five uses as locative (7th case) case-marking particles:
The use of locative with verbs of existence and verbs of living is clearly a ‘locative’ – in the sense that the locative particle marks the place where something exists, lives, or remains.
There are many mountains in Tibet.
Unlike the locative of place of existence or living – which is used only with those two types of verbs – the locative of time may be used with any verb.
[He] taught the doctrine when the sun rose.
Tibetan uses the same verbs for possession and existence: ཡོད་ and མེད་.
Arhats do not have afflictions.
The qualifiers in clausees and sentences ending in verbs of dependence (the thing being depended upon) are in the locative case. The example below was introduced previously in Chapter 12 as a paradigm for Class II nominative-locative verbs.
Effects depend on causes.
The topical locative indicates block language our “outline” language. What it marks is not grammatically connected to the material following it. This is frequently seen at the beginning of different sections of texts.
The first [is as follows]
སུ་ is used after [a syllable ending in] ས་
ཏུ་ is used after ག་, བ་, or secondary suffix ད་
དུ་ used afterང་, ན་, མ་, ད་, ར་, ལ་
ར་ merges with འ་ or no suffix
རུ་ used after འ་ or no suffix
ན་, ལ་ may be used after any suffix
ཤར་ཕྱོགས་སུ་ in the eastern direction
ཀུན་ཛོབ་དུ་ conventionally existent
རང་གི་མདུན་དུ་ in front of one
ཀུན་ཏུ་བཟང་པོ་ Samantabhadra, thoroughly good
ཀུན་ has an invisible secondary suffix ད་, making it ཀུནད་ – the secondary suffix ད་ is often omitted.
རྒྱ་མཚོར་ཡོད་པ་ exists in the ocean
བདེན་པ་རུ་ཡོད་པ་ exists truly
Three main uses of objective case:
The place of activity—where an action verb’s action is done—is in the objective, not the locative (although the case marking particles are the same). In the example below, རྒྱ་གར་ལ་ is a qualifier (it modifies the verb, the action, as opposed to a complement, which would modify a noun).
Buddha taught the doctrine in India.
The objective case is used to mark the OBJECT of certain types of verbs, including (but not limited to) agentive-objective verbs. The objective is also used to mark the DESTINATION of a verb of motion.
He looked at forms with [his] eye[s].
In the example above, you see that the object གཟུགས་ (eye[s]), is marked with ལ་, putting it in the objective case (actually in isolation it could be in any of the 2nd, 4th, or 7th case). Because བལྟས་ is an agentive-objective verb, the ལ་ is marking the object of the verb. In this case, what is being looked at. The agaent of the sentence is marked with a third case ས་. Notice also that there is a third case instrument, with his eyes, marked with a གིས་.
Given the name objective (ལས་སུ་བྱ་བ་), you might expect for the objects of verbs to typically be in the “objective” case. Nevertheless, this is not always true. Very commonly, many agentive verbs have nominative objects.
Verbs of motion have destinations marked by the objective case (not the locative, which you might expect). That verbs of motion have a destination is a distinguishing feature separating them from the other nominative verbs.
The Foremost Lord [Atisha] arrived in Tibet.
བྱོན་ is the past tense form of the verb འབྱོན་ (come, arrive)
There are two groups of verbal particles among lexical particles. One group, discussed in the next section, is that of the negative verbal particles མིན་ and མེད་. The other group consists of particles ending in བཅས་པ་ (possessing, along with), སྡན་པ་ (possessing), and བྲལ་བ་ (lacking, separated from). Of the three, བྲལ་ is commonly used as a verb. The other two are technically verbs but their main use is as verbals in the constructions seen below.
The following three verbs are used to make commonly used verbal particles:
བཅས་པ་ possessing, along with
བྲལ་བ་ lacking or separated from
Of the above, only བྲལ་བ་ is frequently seen as a stand-alone verb. More frequently they are seen in nouns or adjectives as verbal particles:
དང་བཅས་པ one who possesses
དང་སྡན་པ་ one who possesses
དང་བྲལ་བ་ one free from / separated from
Some examples are:
བློ་གྲོས་དང་སྡན་པ་, བློ་སྡན་ one possessed of intelligence, or (adj.) intelligent
ཟག་པ་དང་བཅས་པ་, ཟག་བཅས་ (adj.) contaminated (as in by desire and hatred)
ས་བོན་དང་བཅས་པ་ (adj.) along with their seeds
ས་བོན་ seeds, bija
as in ཉོན་མོངས་ས་བོན་དང་བཅས་པ་ Afflictions along with their seeds.
མཐའ་དང་བྲལ་བ་, མཐའ་བྲལ་ free of extremes – as in free from the two extremes of permanence or annihilation
མཚན་ཉིད་དང་སྡན་པ་ possessing characteristics – has the sense of possessing all the characteristics to be something, such as བླ་མ་མཚན་ཉིད་དང་སྡན་པ་, fully qualified guru
The use of some of these particles is demonstrated in the Four Immeasureables prayer.
May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all sentient beings be inseparable from the happiness that is free from suffering.
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free from desire for friends and hatred for enemies.
Notice that all the lines end in གྱུར་ཅིག. This is translates at may it become and less literally may it be. ཅིག gives the optative mood expressing a wish or desire. གྱུར is a verb become, transform, change, arise, be. This gets translated as May … !.
The exclamation point is used in English to convey the sense of wishing or desiring.
གྱུར་ is the future tense of འགྱུར་, a Class III verb (Hackett, pp. 84). Class III means it is a nominative-objective verb. It's subject is in the nominative case while the (in this case) metaphorical destination or what the subject becomes is in the objective case.
སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་ is all sentient beings and is in the nominative case. This is the same for all four lines.
For the first line, the object is the phrase བདེ་བ་དང་བདེ་བའི་རྒྱུ་དང་ལྡན་པ་ (posessing happiness and the causes of happiness) with the ར་ marking it as being the object.
SUBJECT → OBJECT(ར) → ← VERB
all sentient beings → happiness and causes of happiness posessing (ར) → ← may it be!
The grammar of the first three lines is essentially the same, with different noun phrases as the object. In the first line you see the particle for possessing, in line two separated from or lacking, and in line three not separated from or not lacking. In the fourth line, དང་བྲལ་བ་ connects as a noun phrase to བཏང་སྙོམས་ (equanimity) with a sixth case, modifying it: equanimity that is free from desire for friends and hatred for enemies.
མིན་ and མེད་ are two widely used negative verbal particles (and verbs). These are verbal particles becuase they follow words and are part of the words themselves. They are derived from the negative linking verb (མིན་) and the negative verb of existence (མེད་).
བདག་མེད་ selfless, the selfless, selflessness [self-not exist]
གཉིས་མེད་ is short for གཉིས་སུ་མེད་པ་ (སུ་ is an adverbial marking, showing how something does not exist as two).
བཅོས་མ་ is an adj. meaning artificial
བུམ་པ་མ་ཡིན་པ་ not-pot, non-pot – just about any word may be negated in this fashion using མ་ཡིན་པ་ or མིན་.
འོག་མིན་ Akaniṣṭha pure land [low-not].