Author Topic: pronunciations of sutras  (Read 2642 times)

Offline Pema Dorje

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pronunciations of sutras
« on: February 02, 2010, 07:50:50 pm »
I have been to several different Tibetan Dharma Centers, even 2 Nyingma Centers and they all sound different. My question is, does the "correct" pronunciation of a sutra, create equal merit and realizations when compared to saying it in a different way or tradition. Is there even a "correct" sutra at all?  :anjali:
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Offline Caz

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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2010, 06:10:36 pm »
Its doubtful that the sutra's are word for word account of what was said, they vary across the language barrier the translations so long as the message is imparted...
Of course if one wants to chant them in sanskrit its usually more helpful to understand what is being chanted.  :pray:
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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2010, 04:40:10 am »
I have been to several different Tibetan Dharma Centers, even 2 Nyingma Centers and they all sound different. My question is, does the "correct" pronunciation of a sutra, create equal merit and realizations when compared to saying it in a different way or tradition. Is there even a "correct" sutra at all?  :anjali:


I think the answer is 'yes' , even if you mispronounce words it is as effective, as it is what is going on in your mind which counts.

The centres you visited may be fortunate enough to have a resident Tibetan or one who visits regularly - the rest have to make do, so maybe differences crept in because of that.  I have no idea if there are different accents and dialects among Tibetans but that's another possibility.

Sanskrit mantras are said to carry great spiritual power when pronounced correctly, especially those involving the sound of 'Om/Aum/Aumn' .

I try to seek out the Sanskrit pronunciation as some Tibetan pronunciation of words is quite different, eg 'Soha' which in Sanskrit is 'Swaha' and 'Phat' which Tibetans pronounce 'Pay' and in Sanskrit is 'Part' I'm told.

I've also been told that as there have now been so many realised beings in Tibet it is accepted as a 'Dharma Language' so it is OK to chant in Tibetan.  Don't ask me who made that decision, but it may just have been a Tibetan. ;)

I prefer my sadhanas in English, with just the mantras in Sanskrit, but it's pleasant to hear Tara Puja etc. in another tongue and to chant along.

I don't subscribe to the belief that somehow another language is somehow inherently more effective.  Chanting with faith and the appropriate attitude is much more important IMHO.  But just in case, LOL, I like to get as close to the Sanskrit original as possible. ;)
« Last Edit: February 06, 2010, 04:42:43 am by Yeshe »

Offline Anders Honore

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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2010, 05:36:22 am »
I've also been told that as there have now been so many realised beings in Tibet it is accepted as a 'Dharma Language' so it is OK to chant in Tibetan.  Don't ask me who made that decision, but it may just have been a Tibetan. ;) to the Sanskrit original as possible. ;)

I have heard it opined from a Chinese bhikshu that principally, there's no reason why the Great Compassion mantra (which is only really used in east-asia) could not be chanted in Sanskrit or English as opposed to Chinese, but that it would take some time before it became as effective, as all the beings who respond to the mantra in various ways are currently 'tuned in' to the Chinese version and might not recognise the English or Sanskrit versions until it becomes more commonplace.
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Offline humanitas

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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2010, 12:54:01 pm »
if you mispronounce the sutras you will have a nerf flag suctioned cupped to your head that says "give me compassion, I can't chant", and then you will need to drop and give us 20 (prostrations).  Merit?  Forget it.  You're going to a hell realm to say the least.  Maybe even risk the permanent loss of sentience for all eternity.   :lmfao:

of course matt, for you they might make exceptions.  :teehee:
« Last Edit: February 06, 2010, 01:44:16 pm by 0gyen Chodzom »
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Offline Pema Dorje

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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2010, 01:34:00 pm »
I have been to several different Tibetan Dharma Centers, even 2 Nyingma Centers and they all sound different. My question is, does the "correct" pronunciation of a sutra, create equal merit and realizations when compared to saying it in a different way or tradition. Is there even a "correct" sutra at all?  :anjali:


I think the answer is 'yes' , even if you mispronounce words it is as effective, as it is what is going on in your mind which counts.

The centres you visited may be fortunate enough to have a resident Tibetan or one who visits regularly - the rest have to make do, so maybe differences crept in because of that.  I have no idea if there are different accents and dialects among Tibetans but that's another possibility.

Sanskrit mantras are said to carry great spiritual power when pronounced correctly, especially those involving the sound of 'Om/Aum/Aumn' .

I try to seek out the Sanskrit pronunciation as some Tibetan pronunciation of words is quite different, eg 'Soha' which in Sanskrit is 'Swaha' and 'Phat' which Tibetans pronounce 'Pay' and in Sanskrit is 'Part' I'm told.

I've also been told that as there have now been so many realised beings in Tibet it is accepted as a 'Dharma Language' so it is OK to chant in Tibetan.  Don't ask me who made that decision, but it may just have been a Tibetan. ;)

I prefer my sadhanas in English, with just the mantras in Sanskrit, but it's pleasant to hear Tara Puja etc. in another tongue and to chant along.

I don't subscribe to the belief that somehow another language is somehow inherently more effective.  Chanting with faith and the appropriate attitude is much more important IMHO.  But just in case, LOL, I like to get as close to the Sanskrit original as possible. ;)

Thank you all for you comments in regards to this question. I believe you are right, one center has a full time Lama and one does not. I believe that could be the reason why they sound different.  :anjali:
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Offline pickledpitbull

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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2010, 01:43:09 pm »
One immediate benefit of standard pronunciation is that when a group of people start chanting, it sounds more harmonious.   
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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2010, 03:36:37 pm »
I'm thinking about  the story about the monk who encounters an old man, sitting in lotus, chanting a mantra. The monk inquires how long the man has been practicing this mantra. Many years, is the response. The monk comments, "Well it is too bad that you are pronouncing it wrong. You have been wasting your time all of these years." The monk starts walking away, but the old man levitates from his spot and levitates over to the monk and asks, "Excuse me, but could you tell me how the mantra is supposed to be pronounced?" The astonished monk responds, "Never mind, I think you get the gist of it...."

Offline Ben Yuan

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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2010, 10:12:22 am »
Alexander Berzin often suggests chanting or reading Sutras or Commentaries in English, but Mantras should be in Sanskrit. Tantras on the other hand should not be translated into English because of the distortions which occur so easily when the meaning is transcribed, it also requires one to have a qualified Lama who is familiar with Tibetan to teach Tantras in English from Tibetan, thus retaining the requirement for the guru and ensuring that the proper meaning will be portrayed.

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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2010, 12:49:52 pm »
Alexander Berzin often suggests chanting or reading Sutras or Commentaries in English, but Mantras should be in Sanskrit. Tantras on the other hand should not be translated into English because of the distortions which occur so easily when the meaning is transcribed, it also requires one to have a qualified Lama who is familiar with Tibetan to teach Tantras in English from Tibetan, thus retaining the requirement for the guru and ensuring that the proper meaning will be portrayed.

This is a can of worms which I'll open up just a little:

We must first of all give thanks to those Tibetans who preserved and translated sutras form the Sanskrit which may otherwise have become lost.

However, if the Sanskrit original is available, we must surely choose a direct translation into English.  If there is only a Tibetan source, again we must logically be better off if it is translated into English.

Apparently at some point Tibetan has become recognised as a 'Dharma Language' as there are many enlightened beings who have come from that country. OK, but the Tibetan translation led to that, so if we want the same we must have an English translation.   I'd love to know just how many enlightened beings it takes for a native language to be identified as a 'Dharma Language' which  is as effective as Sanskrit or Pali, or even earlier languages.  As far as I know, the mantras remain in Sanskrit but when transcribed in Tibetan they can easily lead to mispronunciation.

The OP is concerned with pronunciation of sutras, which I think should be in the root language (such as Sanskrit) or our own.
Mantras IMHO must be in Sanskrit as the words only partially convey the full meaning - it is essential for the sound of the original to be conveyed.

I'm not sure how many enlightened beings we need to accumulate for English to be accepted as a Dharma Language but I know of no teaching by the Buddha which proscribed it. ;)


Offline santamonicacj

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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2010, 12:51:37 pm »
Ken McLeod was Kalu R.'s translator for many years. He said that Rinpoche had a heavy Kham (the eastern province of Tibet) accent. His accent was thick enough to make someone from Lhasa have to listen closely to understand him I believe. His mantras still seemed to work though.
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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2010, 01:10:45 pm »
Ken McLeod was Kalu R.'s translator for many years. He said that Rinpoche had a heavy Kham (the eastern province of Tibet) accent. His accent was thick enough to make someone from Lhasa have to listen closely to understand him I believe. His mantras still seemed to work though.
 :jinsyx:

Buddhas are considered to be omniscient so understand any language.......sadly we have lesser abilities.

If there is an intention and a consequent action then it is considered complete - in any language.

The problem arises when what we think we are doing is actually not completing that action, as we communicate nothing sensible to anyone.

In the case of mantras, the intended recipient is a Buddha, so of course our mantras will work.

Offline Caz

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Re: pronunciations of sutras
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2010, 05:06:40 am »
Ken McLeod was Kalu R.'s translator for many years. He said that Rinpoche had a heavy Kham (the eastern province of Tibet) accent. His accent was thick enough to make someone from Lhasa have to listen closely to understand him I believe. His mantras still seemed to work though.
 :jinsyx:

Buddhas are considered to be omniscient so understand any language.......sadly we have lesser abilities.

If there is an intention and a consequent action then it is considered complete - in any language.

The problem arises when what we think we are doing is actually not completing that action, as we communicate nothing sensible to anyone.

In the case of mantras, the intended recipient is a Buddha, so of course our mantras will work.

 :jinsyx:

 :pray:
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This eBook Modern Buddhism – The Path of Compassion and Wisdom, in three volumes, is being distributed freely at the request of the author Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The author says: "Through reading and practicing the instructions given in this book, people can solve their daily problems and maintain a happy mind all the time." So that these benefits can pervade the whole world, Geshe Kelsang wishes to give this eBook freely to everyone.

We would like to request you to please respect this precious Dharma book, which functions to free living beings from suffering permanently. If you continually read and practice the advice in this book, eventually your problems caused by anger, attachment and ignorance will cease.

Please enjoy this special gift from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, who dedicates: "May everyone who reads this book experience deep peace of mind, and accomplish the real meaning of human life."

 


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