Specialized Verbs of Possession & Necessity
Purposive-Beneficial and Originative Cases
First Person Pronouns
The Sources of Cyclic Existence
Actions and Afflictions
Causes and Effects
Remember that in our analysis, there are three types of verbs in Tibetan:
There are two classes of specialized verbs:
Class VII purposive-nominative with 4th case subject – དགོས་, verb of necessity
Class VIII locative-nominative with 7th case subject – verbs of possession and attributive verbs, such as ཟེར་ when it means is called
Class VII and Class VIII techincally have different case endings, but since both the 4th case and the 7th case use the same particles, the la-group particles, both classes are structurally similar.
Verbs of necessity, purpose, or potential benefit, Class VII verbs, are structurally identical to verbs of possession. In both, the subject, the thing that needs or possesses is marked with la-group particle.
Sprouts need water.
I need a pot.
Verbs of possession are locative-nominative verbs. The following is an example of such a verb.
Arhats have no afflictions
Both of these are marked with la-group particles. However, possession is a 7th case and necessity is a 4th case.
Notice that purposive-nominative verbs require a qualifier. One can say ཉོན་མོནས་མེད། (afflictions do not exist), but one cannot say ཆུ་དགོས། (need water). There must always be someone or something needing or receiving the benefit.
Speaking in terms of Tibetan grammar (not our pedagogical, descriptive analysis of it), specialized verbs are technically either nominative or agentive verbs. In native Tibetan grammar, there are no “specialized verbs.” This distinction affects somewhat how we think about verbs of possession and necessity.
ARHATS-AT AFFLICTIONS NOT-EXIST.
Arhats do not have afflictions.
In this example, technically according to Tibetan grammar, the subject of the verb is afflictions. It is afflictions that do not exist. Who do they not exist for? Arhats. Thus in native Tibetan grammar, ཉོན་མོངས་ is the subject of མེད་ and གབྲ་བཅོམ་པ་ལ་ is a qualifier marked with ལ་
However, in English, when we talk about possession, the subject of the verb is the person or place that possesses the object. Arhats would be the subject of not have. What do they not have? Afflictions.
As we have discussed, Tibetan uses the same verb, ཡོད་, for to exist and to possess. English uses two different verbs. Because of this, it is useful to think of ཡོད་ as two different verbs:
Strictly speaking, however, “specialized verbs” is a descriptive fiction used by our system to understand Tibetan grammar in terms of English grammar. It is a matter of convenience for those who think in English to say that ཡོད་, when it acts as a verb of possession, is a “different verb” as compared to ཡོད་, when it acts as a verb of exitence.
I have a pot.
Is ང་ the locative subect (of a verb of possession)? Or is it the locative qualifer (of a verb of existence)? Is བུམ་པ་ the nominative subject (of a verb of existence)? Or is བུམ་པ་ the nominative object (of a verb of possession)?
SUBJECT → OBJECT → ← HAS (VERB OF POSSESSION)
WHOM-FOR → SUBJECT → ← EXISTS (VERB OF EXISTENCE)
I have a pot.
Does this distinction matter? Not really, as long as you understand that it's a little bit arbitrary and why its a little bit arbitrary. In both English and Tibetan, the meaning that is signified is “I have a pot." It is not saying: “For me a pot exists." Nobody would ever say that, ever.
Attributive verbs are the other type of Class VIII verb. These are normally agentive verbs, such as ཟེར་ or བྱེད་, that are being used in a specialized manner to mean is called, refers to, or is taken to mean.
མྱོང་བྱ་ object of experience
རྣམ་པར་སྨིན་པ་ ripen, fruition, maturation
ཟེར་ say, ray, beam of light
The experienced object of feeling is called fruition.
མྱོང་བྱ་ is a verbal noun built the same way as ཤེས་བྱ་, object of knowledge. མྱོང་བྱ་, similarly, means object of experience. It is short for མྱོང་པར་བྱ་བ་. ཚོར་བའི་མྱོང་བྱ་ is literally translated as object of experience of feelings or experienced objects of feelings.
Notice how far from English the strictly literal translation is:
FEELING-OF OBJECT-OF-EXPERIENCE-ABOUT FRUITION SAY
ཚོར་བའི་ མྱོང་བྱ་[c] ལ་ རྣམ་པར་སྨིན་པ་[nom] ཟེར།[vb]
A literal translation might read "[one] says fruition about experience objects of feeling". There is frequently a tension between keeping a literal translation and properly translating the meaning into English from Tibetan. Tibetan and English simply do not signify meaning in the same ways. We want to stay as close to the original Tibetan meaning as possible – but sometimes slavishly translating literally actually obscures the meaning. This is a judgement call wherein lies the art of tranlsating, and the reason why translators cannot sit in a room together without starting a fight.
Calling a verb a “specialized verb” is simply a pedigogical device. Verbs of posession, necessity, and attribution are so designated as a convenience for those who speak and think in English, so that they may look at such a construction and think SUBJECT MARKED BY LA-PARTICLE + NOMINATIVE OBJECT + VERB.
Tibetan verbs of possession and existence are not actually different groups of verbs. They are the same words used in different ways. Like saying “specialized verbs," using a separate category “verbs of possession” is really just a convenience for us as a way to talk about the same verbs in a different manner.
The Tenglish sentences TIBET-IN MOUNTAINS EXIST (There are mountains in Tibet.) and HE BOOKS HAS (He has a book.) share a common syntax:
LOCATIVE → NOMINATIVE → ← VERB OF EXISTENCE
TIBET-IN MOUNTAINS EXIST
HE BOOKS HAS
In the first example, the place of existence is marked by a 7th case locative qualifier for a verb of existence. In the second example, the subject is also marked by a 7th case.
TIBET-IN MOUNTAINS EXIST
HE BOOKS HAS
When in Tibetan a verb of existence (such as ཡོད་ or མངའ་) is used to say something has something, what is literally being said is that a thing exists in relationship to a certain person.
This is a place where word order matter. The locative qualifier marking the subject (the person doing the possessing) comes before the object possessed.
The order of the clauses or words here is important because (1) a sentence can very likely have multiple qualifiers marked with any variety of la-group particles, and (2) one may speak about having many different types of things, such as an arm, a mind, children, or external things such as books. Thus order is important for disambiguation.
By saying that verbs of existence and verbs of possession are not separate verbs but are, in reality, the same verb, this is not to imply that they are not being used differently. When verbs of existence are used as verbs of possession, this is a different use of the same verb that has a different syntax.
Verbs of existence take nominative subjects and, sometimes, locative qualifiers. When these same verbs are used as verbs of possession, they take locative subjects and nominative objects.
Also, as I pointed at previously, just because the literal grammar says this:
AT A CERTAIN PERSON → A THING → ← EXISTS
There is no need ever to translate simple possession as “At him a book exists.” That is not what the Tibetan says, that is not what Tibetans hear, and that is not the meaning that is actually being encoded by such a sentence.
Here are some examples of possessive construction:
སྐྱོན་ fault, disadvantage, fallacy, flaw
མངའ་ possess, own, have control over
སངས་རྒྱས་ལ་ སྐྱོན་[nom] མི་མངའ།[vb]
The Buddha as no faults.
In the previous sentence, སངས་རྒྱས་ (Buddha) is the seventh case subject and སྐྱོན་(fault) is the nominative object of the verb མི་མངའ་ (possess).
Here's another example:
Arhats do not have afflictions.
When we say “Arhats do not have any afflictions,” the three primary afflictions are:
These are the principal causes of cyclic existence. One who has irreversibly eliminated them is called an arhat, དགྲ་བཅོམ་པ་ (Foe Destroyer, one who has overcome the “foe” of the afflictions).
In Tibetan, verbs of possession generally have persons as subjects. However, in translation there are possible exceptions. English can talk about pots having shape and color. བུམ་པ་ལ་དབྱིབས་དང་ཁ་དོག་ཡོད། But, as we have stated repeatedly, this can be interpreted as either existence or possession. In pots, there are shapes and colors.
Generally in Tibetan, verbs of possession have persons as subjects. In English, however, we happliy speak about places and things “having” other things. Thus in translation, it is possible that verbs of existence in Tibetan can be turned into verbs of possession in English.
In Tibet there are many mountains.
Or → Tibet has many mountains.
There are gods and humans in the Desire Realm.
Or → The Desire Realm has gods and humans.
Note how the first might sound better translated as a verb of possession but the second is probably better left as a verb of existence.
Recall from Chapter 10 that there are, in cyclic existence, three main areas of rebirth:
- འདོད་པའི་ཁམས་ desire realm
- གཟུགས་ཀྱི་ཁམས་ form realm
- གཟུགས་མེད་པའི་ཁམས་ formless realm
This is mostly a concern in abhidharma and not a soteriological concern. Liberation occurs only from within a rebirth in the Desire Realm.
Where are there are both gods and humans in the desire realm, there are only gods in the form and formless realms.
FORMLESS REALM-IN GODS ONLY EXIST
There are only gods in the formless realm.
The phrase གཟུགས་མེད་པ means somewhere forms do not exist or someone who has no form or something without form. གཟུགས་མེད་པའི་ཁམས་ becomes formless realm through the use of a 6th case attaching གཟུགས་མེད་པ་ to ཁམས་ (realm). What type of realm? A realm where form does not exist.
The three realms follow the same construction using the 6th case. However, all of them are frequently abbreviated by omitting the sixth case:
Taking གཟུགས་མེད་ in isolation, what different interpretations could there be? First, interpreting མེད་ as a verb, it could be a very simple sentence forms do not exist. Second, interpreting མེད་ as a negative syntactic particle following a noun, it could be [that] without form. When you add a པ་ to create གཟུགས་མེད་པ་, you either explicitly create a verbal noun (that without form) or a participle clause that says [the] not-existing forms or forms not existing. By adding the 6th case connective, གཟུགས་མེད་པའི་, you create a verbal adjective: something that lacks form.
This is summarized below:
Another way to express formless realm would be to use a relative pronoun to say a realm in which forms do not exist.
གང་ལ་ in which, where (relative pronoun)
གང་ལ་ གཟུགས་[nom] མེད་པའི་ ཁམས་[nom]
A realm in which forms do not exist.
Notice in this sentence, you have a nice verbal clause that can be made into a sentence in its own right.
[A place] where form does not exist.
The ལ་ can be thought of as a seventh case qualifier marking the place of existence – but here it is not a specific place but a relative pronoun, thus it is translated as: a place where. This whoe clause is turned into a verbal adjective by adding པའི་, which then modifies realm (ཁམས་).
We have seen Verbs of Existence used in a variety of ways:
Verbs of existence can also be used in the sense of inclusion, such as:
བཞི་གྲུབ་[c]ལ་ རྟག་པ་དང་མི་རྟག་པ་[app]གཉིས་[nom] ཡོད།[vb]
Among basic existents there are two [types], impermanent ones and permanent ones.
The grammar is superficially the same as possession:
LOCATIVE → NOMINATIVE → ← VERB OF EXISTENCE
This is very similar to place of existence and possession, yet translating this sentence as either of those would be incorrect. “There are two—permanent and impermanent—in established bases” and “Established bases have two, permanent and impermanent” are both INCORRECT.
This use of the seventh case is neither marking the place or existence nor marking the subject of a verb of possession. It is marking a place or basis of inclusion, in this example, basic existents.
The rule of thumb for locating of inclusion is to use among or within. The things included are all instances of the basis of inclusion. That is, permanent phemonena and impermanent phenomena ARE basic existents.
This is not radically different than བོད་ལ་རི་ཡོད།, since mountains are (at least parts of) Tibet. However, it does differ from རྒྱ་མཚོ་ལ་ཉ་འདུག་, since the fish are not oceans. They are found within the ocean but are not examples of oceans themselves.
Within form, shape and color, the two, are included.
Here shape and color ARE form. They are not “one with form” in the techincal philosophical sense, yet they are divisions of form. We can say: ཁ་དོག་གཟུགས་ཡིན། and དབྱིབས་གཟུགས་ཡིན། (shape is form and color is form). Notice that we CANNOT say གཟུགས་ཁ་དོག་ཡིན། and གཟུགས་དབྱིབས་ཡིན། (form is color and form is shape). Shape has the quality of being form, but form does not have the quality of being shape.
This gets into the whole issue of predication and pervasion, both of which are covered extensively by Dan Perdue, Debate In Tibetan Buddhism, and Georges Dreyfus, Recognizing Reality.
Sentences ending in the verb of necessity དགོས་ (must, needs, need to), look similar to sentences with verbs of possession. However, the subject is in the 4th case instead of the 7th.
I need [a] pot.
Although 4th and 7th cases use the exact same particles, they have different functions. The 4th case generally shows purpose or benefit. The 7th case is used to show dependence, location, inclusion, possession, or time.
དགོས can also be used in a 2nd case / locative identity construction.
As causes of cyclic existence, the two—actions and afflictions—are needed.
In this construction, the subject is not explicitly stated: “are needed” instead of “the causes of cyclic existence need.” If we assumed a simple 4th case verb of necessity, the sentence would be: “The cause[s] of cyclic existence need the two, actions and affliction.” But context tells us that this latter sentence isn’t correct. Thus we say, “As causes of cyclic existence …”
We can use the identity construction because ལས་དང་ཉོན་མོངས་པ་ are འཁོར་བའི་རྒྱུ་, where are a sprout is not water, even if it needs water.
This example demonstrates the importance of not conflating the different cases even though they use the same markings, the la-group, and the differences may appear subtle initially. The qualifier (or complement, see discussion below) marked with a la-group particle, which might be taken to be a fourth case or purposive subject, is actually something else, in this case second case identity.
Let's look deeper at this example.
འཁོར་བའི་ རྒྱུ་ལ་ ལས་དང་ཉོན་མོངས་པ་[app] གཉིས་[nom] དགོས།[vb]
As causes of cyclic existence, the two – actions and afflictions – are needed.
The translation above does not say The causes of cyclic existence need the two, actions and afflictions or The two – actions and afflictions – are needed as causes of cyclic existence. The phrase འཁོར་བའི་རྒྱུ་ (causes of cyclic existence), marked by དགོས, is not the subject of the verb of necessity, marking what needs. Instead, the subject can be understood to be unstated or implicit, and the ལ་ can be interpreted as marking a second case identity qualifier (or complement, see discussion below). Actions and afflictions are understood as the causes of cyclic existence. When we say a sprout needs water, the sprout and the water are not identical. In the sentence above, actions and afflictions are understood to be the causes of cyclic existence; it is not that the causes of cyclic existence need actions and afflictions – they are actions and afflictions.
Identity is one of the most common uses of the second case. Although identity is often adverbial (as in བདེན་པར་ཡོད་), here it is existential, translated into as …
As a point of comparison, our core paradigm for second case identity with agentive verbs is:
སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་[nom] མར་ ཤེས།[vb]
[They] understand all beings to be [their] mothers.
Know all beings as [one's] mother.
The use in this case is a little different. In our core paradigm, ཤེས་ is an agentive verb, not an intransitive verb. All sentient beings (སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་) is a nominative subject of the agentive-nominative verb. The 3rd-case agent is unstated. Thus the grammar ends up very similar because the subject of the transitive verb of དགོས་ is also unstated.
I personally found this paradigm confusing for a while. I kept wanting to say that the second-case complement as mother was modifying the action of knowing, not the subject all sentient beings. What finally convinced me was realizing that we are not being exhorted to know all sentient beings motherly or in a motherly fashion – interpreting མར་ as an adverb modifying the action. Instead we are supposed to know them as equivalent to mothers. The act of knowing remains unchanged, in essence, it is the subject which is modified.
Wilson's understanding of what a qualifier is changed over the time he wrote Translating Buddhism From Tibetan and is somewhat inconsistent. Craig's definitions, the definitions of qualifier and complement we will try to stick with in this wiki, are:
The verb དགོས་ is intransitive and takes its subject in the first, or nominative, case. The second-case identity clause marked by the ལ་ (འཁོར་བའི་རྒྱུ་ལ་) seems better understood as modifying the nominative subject of the intransitive verb. Seen this way, it is better understood as a complement. It's not telling us about how they are needed, modifying the action of need, but instead is modifying the subject itself, identifying them as causes of cyclic existence.
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).
Complements tell us more about an object, either: the subject of an intransitive verb or the object of a transitive verb. Agents of transitive verbs and predicates of linking verbs do not have complements. The object may: be the complement, appear as the complement, or may be conceived as the complement.
Another very common use of the la-group particles is to mark FOURTH CASE PURPOSE. This is even more common than second case identity. The sentence introduced above has been altered slightly, changing རྒྱུ་ into འགྲུབ་པ་.
འགྲུབ་ nominative verb, to establish
འཁོར་བ་འགྲུབ་ cyclic existence is established.
འགྲུབ་པ་ establishment or establishing
འཁོར་བ་འགྲུབ་པ་ establishment of cyclic existence
འཁོར་བ་[nom] འགྲུབ་པ་ལ་ ལས་དང་ཉོན་མོངས་པ་[app] གཉིས་[nom] དགོས།[vb]
In order for cyclic existence to be established, the two – actions and afflictions – are needed.
In this sentence, the clause marked with the ལ་ is clearly a qualifier, telling us the purpose or why, informing us more about the action of need than the subject itself.
འཁོར་བ་འགྲུབ་པ་ is a very short sentence meaning cylcic existence is established. It's syntax is the basic nominative verb syntax: NOMINATIVE SUBJECT + VERB. Adding པ་ to the verb creates the verbal noun འགྲུབ་པ་, establishment or establishing. This transforms what had been a sentence into a clause. Notice how this verbal acts as a verb to its left, with its own grammar or “box," capturing འཁོར་བ་ in its grammar, and to the right acts as a noun. Understanding this pattern is crucial to understanding the structure of Tibetan sentences and this small example is played out in much larger, more complex (and harder to translated) examples in classical Tibetan literature.
How do we know that the ལ་ is not marking the fourth case subject? Remember that verbs of necessity take their subject in the fourth case.
I need a pot.
Sprout[s] need water.
Can འཁོར་བ་འགྲུབ་པ་ལ་ be interpreted as the fourth case subject of དགོས་? One could make the argument that འཁོར་བ་འགྲུབ་པ་ is akin to an English infinitive phrase (to bring about cyclic existence). Interpreted this way, this phrase could be thought about as the subject which needs actions and afflictions.
Verbs of necessity are often used in compound verb constructions.
སྐྱེད་ to generate
One must generate compassion
Note that in the sentence above, སྐྱེད་ is the verb determining the grammar of the sentence, not དགོས་. དགོས་ relates to སྐྱེད་ and སྐྱེད་ relates to the remainder of the sentence.
In the next section you'll find a couple examples of དགོས་ being used in compound verbs.
Take a look at these two examples of དགོས་ being used as a compound verb, in the sense of [one] must …
བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའ་ bodhisattva (one intent on full enlightenment)
མཉམ་པ་ཉིད་ equanimity [equal-ness], in the sense of viewing all sentient beings with equal compassion and love
ཚད་མེད་ immeasureable, infinite [measure-not exist]
འཇུག་ enter (into), engage (in), practice
འཇུག་པར་བྱ་ auxiliary verb phrase meaning [one] will practice/engage/enter or [one] should practice/engage/enter
[One] must practice [the] limitless equanimity of the bodhisattva.
འཇུག་པར་བྱ་ is an auxiliary verb construction with འཇུག་ (enter, engage, practice) and བྱ་, the future tense form of བྱེད་ (do, make). Hackett suggests two possible interpretations of VERB + པར་བྱ་
(1) emphatic future ([one] will …), and
(2) optative mood ([one] should …).
In context of the whole verb phrase, འཇུག་པར་བྱ་དགོས་, I'm interpreting this as a future tense construction emphasizing the necessity of འཇུག་, which I translate as practice, but could also mean enter or engage. འཇུག་ is a Class II verb (nominative-locative), and the object, the thing being entered into or engaged, is marked with a la-group particle (ལ་ in this case). A slavishly literal translation of འཇུག་པར་བྱ་དགོས་ might be something like [one] must come to enter or [one] must come to enter engage in.
འཇུག་ is a very common verb, almost as common as བྱེད་, and is often found as part of verbal collocations. It's worth reading the entry in Hackett's Verb Lexicon (pp. 148) for འཇུག་ to get a sense of the range of meanings and uses.
Here's another example of using དགོས་ as a compound verb.
ཡོངས་སུ་སྦྱང་ thoroughly purify/wash/practice/train/cleanse/clean
ཡོངས་སུ་ one of the stock Sanskrit prefix, pari, generally means thoroughly
མེད་པ་ belief, interest (a complex word, see discussion below)
[One] must thoroughly train [in the] limitless intention/dedication/aspiration/motivation/zeal of the bodhisattva.
The syntax in this sentence is very similar to the previous sentence. However, notice the lack of the locative case-marking particle, the ལ་ in the previous sentence. Here the verb determining the grammar of the sentence, train or practice, སྦྱང་, is an agentive verb with the object in the nominative, thus no ལ་. The rest of the syntax is essentially the same.
མོས་པ་ is a difficult word to translate with just one word (see the example sentence below). It's a rich word that does not map directly to an English word. UMA Tibet has for it's meaning: belief; interest; devotion; imagination; faith; inclined towards; prefer; zeal; imagine; keen for; devoted. Berzin has firm conviction. 84,000 has: volition; also translated here as inclination, will, and intent.
མོས་པ་ is one of the five object-determining mental factors, and in that context has a specific meaning that may be narrower than it's full meaning used in other contexts. The five object-determining mental factors (ཡུལ་ངེས་བྱེད་ལྔ་, སེམས་བྱུང་ཡུལ་ངེས་བྱེད་ལྔ་) are:
It's useful to think about the comparison between མོས་པ་ and དད་པ་, which is the translation for faith.
དད་པ་ or faith is one of the eleven virtuous mental states (part of the larger group of 51 mental states). དད་པ་ and མོས་པ་ are understood to work together to support one's progress on the path. མོས་པ་ might be thought to bring a sense of interest, inspiration, and aspiration for the teachings and the path. དད་པ་ brings a sense of vividness, eagerness, and confidence in the teachings and the path.
དད་པ་ is often understood in terms of the three kinds of faith, དད་པ་གསུམ་
On Venerable Thubten Chordon's website, she has an article that lists a different translation for the three types of faith: admiring, aspiring, and conviction.
A definition of faith by Mipham (taken from Rigpa Wiki) is as follows:
[my literal translation] With respect to that which abides as true, faith is clear, wishes [for it], and has confidence [in it], and also supports aspiration.
[Rigpa translations] Faith is to have a vivid and eager mind towards, and have confidence in, that which is authentic and true. It supports interest.
[Erik Pema Kunsang] Faith is admiration of, longing towards, and trust in that which is true. It supports determination.
You may notice that all three translations use a different word for འདུན་པ་.
Yangsi Rinpoche in spoken commentary when asked to explain the difference between དད་པ་ and མོས་པ་ and how they relate, said that faith is more of a general openness and interest (མོས་པ་) is more specific. མོས་པ་, he said, is narrower and focused on a specific lineage or family of teachings; it is related to the karma of one's current life. Faith is broader, more general.
Here is a nice quote on faith from Yangsi Rinpoche's book Practicing the Path, on faith.
There is considerable significance in saying that the root of devotion is faith, for faith is not only the basis of the entire spiritual path, but also the basis for every virtue. Faith causes our positive potentials to develop and reach fulfillment. The more we can enhance our faith in the spiritual path and the spiritual teacher, the better chance we will have to cut through the root of cyclic existence, to attain the enlightened body, speech, and mind and the four bodies of a buddha.
Faith also has the effect of uplifting our entire mentality. Often, when we feel depressed or when we feel a sense of great loneliness, we are lacking the presence of faith in our lives. Of course, the immediate causes of our depression or loneliness might be anger or attachment, but if we can only generate faith, we will be able to cut through all of these negative states of mind and lift our spirits. The more we are able to express our faith physically and mentally, the more we will be able to counteract our deluded sense of pride and thereby naturally cultivate respect for all beings in our thoughts and actions. An individual lacking faith may have a mind of great pride and total lack of respect and consideration for others. In this kind of person there is no chance for any positive development.
Faith is really the greatest form of internal wealth that we could ever have. Just as we say that extensive listening is like a treasure that cannot be stolen away, in the same way, the faith that arises from listening is also precious. It is a great storehouse for generating virtue, generating positive potentials, and enabling us to attain liberation and enlightenment. Faith is like the limbs that carry us forth to enlightenment, like the hand that is able to gather things together—like this, the mind of faith gathers virtue. Faith is regarded as the most supreme of all vehicles, as it leads us from the very beginning of the path all the way to the attainment of enlightenment. It is faith that introduces us to the spiritual path; it is faith that helps us develop on the spiritual path; and it is faith that completes the fruits of the path. Of all of our listening, understanding, and meditation, faith is what empowers the teachings to become an antidote. Without faith, the teachings are totally ineffective. As a seed that has been burned cannot become a flower, a mind without faith will not bear fruit.
Generally, we categorize faith into three types. The first is the faith of conviction, arising through a sense of belief, as we experience when we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The second is pure faith, such as the faith that we cultivate in relation to our spiritual teachers. The third is aspiring faith, such as the faith in enlightenment and liberation. This is the faith that arises due to wishing to attain these results. None of these types of faith are what we call blind faith. They are all grounded in sound reasoning or logic.
treFrom Practicing the Path by Yangsi Rinpoche (pp. 53-54)
The indirect object of an action verb—when that object clearly receives benefit—is in the fourth case.
སྨན་པ doctor (in agentive case)
སྟེར་ to give (agentive verb)
ནད་པ་ ill person (indirect object in 4th case)
A doctor gives medicine to the ill.
Any sentence or clause may include a qualifier which indicates the purpose of an action or state of being (marked by the 4th case).
མཆི་ to go (verb of motion, nominative-objective verb)
[We] go for refuge to the spiritual community.
In the sentence above, མཆི is a nominative-objective verb with its subject in the 1st case and its destination in the 2nd case. The qualifier is in the fourth case, indicating the purpose or aim of the action of going.
Sprouts need water.
As seen earlier, verbs of necessity take their subject in the 4th case.
ལས་ and ནས་ are the 5th case particles. They may be used with any words. Their use does not depend on the suffix, unlike the other case marking particles.
Remember that both have non-case uses:
ལས་ also means karma (or action)
ནས་ also means barley; more significantly, as syntactic particle, it is used after verbs to indicate a continuation of the sentence.
ལས་ and ནས་ have six uses as case marking particles:
མི་དགེ་བའི་ལས་ unwholesome actions
བསགས་ to accumulate (agentive-nominative verb)
བརྟེན་ to depend, to rely
ངན་འགྲོ bad migration
སྐྱེ to be born
མི་དགེ་བའི་ལས་[nom] བསགས་པ་ལ་ བརྟེན་[v] ནས་[sp] ངན་འགྲོར་ སྐྱེ།[vb]
UNWHOLESOM ACTIONS[nom] ACCUMULATED-ON HAVING-DEPENDED[sp] BAD MIGRATIONS BORN[vb]
In dependence on having accumulated unwholesome actions, one is born in a bad rebirth.
Notice that in the example above, the subject of སྐྱེ་, who accumulates actions and is reborn, is unstated. The ལས་ above is action or karma, and NOT a 5th case marker. The first part of the sentence, མི་དགེ་བའི་ལས་བསགས་པ་ལ་བརྟེན་ནས་, reads: having depended on accumulating unwholesome actions.
བསགས་པ་ is the past tense of བསག་པ་ which means accumulate, or more colloquially, earn. It is used in the sense of accumulate merit or accumulate misdeeds, བསོད་ནམས་བསག་ or སྡིག་བ་བསག་
He or she earned great merit.
Having killed, [he, she, they] accumulates misdeed[s].
¶ Merit or Positive Force
དགེ་བ་ vs བསོད་ནམས་ – Both of these words mean merit or virtue, what Alex Berzin terms “positive force.” Merit is one of the two accumulations (ཚོགས་གཉིས་) of merit and wisdom. From the 84,000 dictionary: “Merit refers to the wholesome tendencies imprinted in the mind as a result of positive and skillful thoughts, words, and actions that ripen in the experience of happiness and well-being.” Sogyal Rinpoche says in his book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, “Merit is the positive power and benefit, the peace and happiness that radiate from your practice.” In Buddhism, it is important to dedicate the merit to the enlightenment of all sentient beings. This ensures that any positive force one generates is not wasted or lost.
In terms of pervasion, དགེ་བ་ and བསོད་ནམས་ are དོན་ཅགིག་ (same meaning). They refer to the same set of phenomena. However, there is a different emphasis in their meaning. བསོད་ནམས་ describes the set of phenomena in terms of result, that they lead to higher rebirth, whereas དགེ་བ་ describes them as an entity, that they are one of the ten virtues, concomitant with or motivated by one of the eleven virtuous mental factors, etc.
Merit can be understood to be divided into two subdivisions:
- merit that creates happiness in this life
- merit that leads to liberation
Merit is one of the two accumulations, ཚོགས་གཉིས་, that a Bodhisattva must accumulate in the Sutra vehicle (without practicing Tantra) for three countless eons during the path of accumulation.
- བསོད་ནམས་, merit
- ཤེས་རབ་, ཡེ་ཤེས་ wisdom
Here's a fun sentence to think about:
འཕགས་པའི་དགེ་འདུན་ Arya Sangha or noble sangha. The congregation of practitioners who have attained the path of seeing, the third of the five paths. This is a NOUN-6th-NOUN phrase.
བསོད་ནམས་ merit, virtue (Berzin likes to call this positive force, which, while not literal, is evocative).
ན་ if, when (notice that this is also a la-group particle)
ཐམས་ཅད་ all, everywhere
ཞི་ to pacify
འཕགས་པའི་དགེ་འདུན་ལ་ བསོད་ནམས་བསགས་ན། ནད་རིམས་ཐམས་ཅད་ ཞི་བར་གསུངས་ཏེ།
ARYA SANGHA-FOR MERIT ACCUMULATE WHEN EPIDEMICS EVERYWHERE PACIFIED SAID
When one accumulates merit for the [sake of the] Arya Sangya, all epidemics are said to be pacified.
འཕགས་པའི་དགེ་འདུན་ is a simple NOUN-6th-NOUN phrase [arya-sangha]. Sangha is the westernized form of saṃgha or saṅgha, which is the Tibetan word དགེ་འདུན་ [virtue-aspire]. The ལ་ marks that clause as a qualifier for the sake of. བསོད་ནམས་, as we mentioned, means merit, and བསགས་ is the past tense of the Class V (agentive-nominative) verb accumulate or earn. The agent of the verb is unstated or omitted, translated as “one." This is very common. This whole first half of the sentence is set off by the ན་, interpreted as when but could also mean if (and remember could always be a la-group particle).
ནད་རིམས་ཐམས་ཅད་ is a NOUN-ADJECTIVE phrase [disease-all] translated as all disease or all epidemics. If you break ནད་རིམས་ down you will see a common pattern in Tibetan where two similar words are combined: ནད་ (disease; illness; sickness) and རིམས་ (disease, plague).
ཞི་བར་གསུངས་ is an example of a compound verb using the verbal infnitive (verb + བར་). It is translated as said to pacify, with ཞི་ being a verb to pacify, and གསུངས་ as said (past tense of honorific verb གསུང་). Verbal infinitives are one of two types of infinitives in Tibetan (see section on verb forms). In this instance, the translation is identical to the infinitive form in English (to pacify). This is frequently NOT the case. The Tibetan infinitive forms often to not translate so neatly into English infinitives. Don't take from this that the verbal infinitive (verb + བར་) is the same as the English infinitive.
The originative / 5th case may indicate the actual source of something or, less commonly, the means that cause something to come about.
བྱུང་ arise (nominative action verb)
ཆུ་བུར་ bubbles (ར is not a case-marking particle, but part of the noun)
Bubbles come out of the water.
ཤར་ arise, appear (nominative action verb) – used to me sunrise but is also frequently used in discussions of meditation and epistemology
ཉི་མ་ sun, day
ཤར་ཕྱོགས་ east [arise-direction]
The sun rises out of the east.
The next example is probably the most common use of the fifth case in Buddhist classical Tibetan. Normally the passage taken from the basic text would be in the ellipses.
ལྟར as, like (marks a phrase or clause as an adverb)
རྩ་ཚིག་ root text, basic text
ཞེས་ quote marker, marks end of quote
རྩ་ཚིག་ལས་ … ཞེས་གསུངས་པ་ལྟར།
As is said in the words of the basic text …
འགྲོ་བ་ go (the བ་ is simply omitted in the phrase below)
འོང་བ་མེད་པ་འགྲོ་མེད་པ། without coming, without going (nouns in a list)
ཞེས་ quote marker, marks end of quote
གསུངས་ say, teach
རྩ་ཚིག་ལས། འོང་བ་མེད་པ་འགྲོ་མེད་པ། ཞེས་གསུངས་པ་ལྟར།
As [Nagarjuna] said in the basic text, “Without coming, without going” …
The quote above is from Nagarjuna’s Verses on the Middle Way (Mulamadhyamikakarika), known in Tibetan as རྩ་བ་ཤེས་རབ་ (Basic Text on Wisdom).
Most often Tibetan does not mark the beginning of direct quotations but only the end, using one of three quote markers.
ཅེས་ follows words that end in suffixesག་ད་བ་ and secondary suffix ད་
ཞེས་ follows words that end in suffixes ང་ན་མ་འ་ར་ལ་ as well as without suffix
ཤེས་ follows words ending in suffix ས་
The grammar of the quoted material—phrase, clause, sentence, or paragraph—is entirely self-contained, cut off from the sentence in which it is quoted.
When material is quotes in texts, if you are lucky, the quote may be introduced using a short attribution, such as the following, which introduced a quote from Śāntideva's Bodhicaryāvatāra (A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life or Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds). Notice that in this quoted passage (from a Three Vows text) there are actually two quotes from the same text and two quote marker.
སྤྱོད་འཇུག་ལས། … །ཞེས་གསུངས་པ་ལྟར་རོ།
[From] Śāntideva's Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds: … as was said.
སྤྱོད་འཇུག་ལས། བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་སྐྱེས་གྱུར་ན་སྐད་ཅིག་གིས། །འཁོར་བའི་བཙོན་རྭར་བསྡམས་པའི་ཉམ་ཐག་རྣམས། །བདེར་གཤེགས་རྣམས་ཀྱི་སྲས་ཞེས་བརྗོད་བྱ་ཞིང་། །འཇིག་རྟེན་ལྷ་མིར་བཅས་པས་ཕྱག་བྱར་འགྱུར། ཞེས་དང་། དེ་རིང་སངས་རྒྱས་རིགས་སུ་སྐྱེས། །སངས་རྒྱས་སྲས་སུ་ད་གྱུར་རྟོ། །ཞེས་གསུངས་པ་ལྟར་རོ།
Here is a full translation using Stephen Batchelor's translation of the Śāntideva verses:
As was said in Śāntideva's Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds: “The moment an Awakening Mind arises; In those fettered and weak in the jail of cyclic existence, They will be named ʹa Son of the Sugatasʹ, And will be revered by both men and gods of the world.” And also: “Today I have been born in Buddha’s family. Now I have become one of Buddha's sons.”
A question that came up when we were translating these lines was how to translate སངས་རྒྱས་སྲས་, which Batchelor translated as “Buddha's son.” This is literally accurate. སྲས་ is an honorific word that means son, but it also means child or offspring. Thus accuracy of the text could be maintained while using more gender inclusive language. In our translation seminar, we settled on “child of a Buddha” instead.
Pronouns and nouns function in the same ways. They may:
There are many varieties of pronouns in English grammar. These classifications may be used to help systematize Tibetan grammar.
Note that there is a fair amount of double duty—interrogative pronouns must be distinguished from relative pronouns by contextual clues. However, unlike verbs, Tibetan pronouns do differ according to person. There are first, second, and third person pronouns.
ང་ I, first person pronoun
ཁྱེད་ you, second person pronoun
ཁོ་ he or she, third person pronoun
ཁོང་ he or she (honorific)
First person pronouns in English include I, me, my, and mine. The most common first person pronouns in Tibetan are ང་ and བདག་.
I am a sentient being.
In philosophical contexts, care must be taken not to confuse the use of བདག་ as a first person pronoun with it's use as ātman, representing one of the three types of selves that do not exist ((1) permanent, partless, and independent self; (2) self-sufficient and substantial self; and (3) inherently existing self). For example, in བདག་མེད་པ་, selfessness.
བདག་ is also sometimes used more in the sense of entity or nature.
How could the world exist in fact, With a nature passed beyond the three times