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The Reason Buddhists need to study the Tibetan Language.

By Nima Bhuti

About Nima Bhuti - Nima was born in Kuenpheling Tibetan settlement in Bhutan. After completing her primary studies in Kuenpheling she went to Sonada and Kalimpong (The Central School For Tibetan in North India). From 2003 to 2005 she studied Tibetan Buddhism, Grammer, History, and Poetry at Norbulingka, and higher Tibetan Studies at Sarah College. After this she received a scholarship from the Departmant of Education to study Japanese Language, culture and agriculture. Nima has taught Tibetan as a Second Language through Esukhia, during this time she attended training on teaching Tibetan as a Second Language and Tibetan Cultural Training at the Tibet Library. In 2017 Nima received the appreciation of the Best Teacher certificate from Esukhia. Since 2019 Nima Bhuti has been teaching her own online lessons via Skype, and has been working with Nitartha Institue as a Tibetan Language teacher.

Nima writes:

In general, most countries have their own written language, culture, and customs, and there must be stories about how they developed and the hardships the previous generations underwent to develop them. Generally, their spoken and written languages are considered to be very precious. 


I would like to offer my own experience of how our Tibetan language and culture are very precious and important today for the world in general and especially for the Tibetan people. 


First, the Tibetan religious kings and translators, led by Master Thönmi, have worked tirelessly and sacrificed their lives for the purpose of making the Buddhist teachings accessible in the Tibetan language. Therefore, Tibetan language is very precious. 


Second, the Tibetan culture in general, and especially the entire Buddhist canon of sutras and tantras, has been perfectly translated and preserved in this language. Therefore, it is very precious.


Third, the Buddhist view of dependent origination, the practice of nonviolence, love and compassion, the law of cause and effect, the nature of mind, the extraordinary mind training, and the cherishing of others is like medicine which benefits all beings and is absorbed in this language. Therefore, the Tibetan language is very precious. 


Fourth, by listening to the principle of impermanence, one understands that life is short and that at the time of death nothing but the Dharma will help. By listening to the principle of dependent origination and other principles of the view, one can recognize that other people are important and precious. By listening to the law of cause and effect, one understands that no matter what good or bad results occur, nothing happens without causes and conditions. Therefore, as all this is transmitted through the Tibetan language, it is very precious and important. 


Fifth, for these reasons, we Tibetans in general, and Buddhists in particular, should regard the Buddha’s teachings as the common property and act in ways that benefit both ourselves and others by studying, practicing, and spreading them.

To do this, it is important to know the Tibetan language so that one can understand the vast and profound teachings of the Buddha. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has often shared the keen interest shown by Western scientists in Buddhist philosophy, especially in Buddhist psychology. As the English language cannot yet express the profound Buddhist concepts with the same clarity as the Tibetan language, it is important to study the Tibetan language if you are interested in Buddhist teachings, especially Buddhist philosophy.


For example, originally when translating texts into English the word Buddha was left in Sanskrit, as there was no equivalent in the English language, whereas in the Tibetan language Buddha is called Sangye “སངས་རྒྱས”. Sang “སངས་”means “all faults have been removed. ”and Gye “རྒྱས’means “all good qualities have increased”. In that way the Tibetan  language expresses the deeper meaning of what it means to be a Buddha.

For example, the word Nangpa “ནང་པ་” is translated into English as "Buddhist." The English word Buddhist has no special meaning but in Tibetan Nangpa “ནང་པ་” means one who mainly considers peace of mind from the inside not from the external material.

The word Nang Cho “ནང་ཆོས་” is translated into English as “Buddhist religion.” The word does not have a profound meaning. However, in Tibetan, Nang “ནང་” means “inner mind” and Cho “ཆོས་” is  the imperative of “ to correct or repair. ”  And Nang cho “ནང་ཆོས་”means “to repair or correct the contamination of the inner mind with afflictions.


One more example is the word Ten Jung རྟེན་འབྱུང་ which is translated into English as “interdependent.” The English word interdependent doesn’t give its full meaning. However, in Tibetan, the word Ten Jung རྟེན་འབྱུང་ does give us the idea that whatever results arise, are because of causes and conditions only. Without cause and condition, nothing will happen.


These examples show the importance and preciousness of the Tibetan language,and why it is important to study the Tibetan language in order to understand the Buddhist Dharma.



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