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11449Re: [Buddhism_101] pronunciation of Tibetan terms & names & mantras on websites

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  • John Pellecchia
    Oct 11, 2009
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      Good morning, Ken

      My apologies for not replying sooner but I've been away and am just now catching up on a lot of e-mail.

      As I understand mantras are generally Sanskrit and not Tibetan per se. Bardor Tuluk (see http://www.snowlionpub.com/pages/N65_1.html ) in an interview said: "Most Buddhist mantras are in the Sanskrit language. Pronunciation of mantras seems therefore to be an issue for those unfamiliar with Sanskrit. Tibetans tend to mispronounce Sanskrit consonants; Westerners do better with the consonants but have trouble with the vowels and stresses or rhythm." He gives more excellent advice regarding mantras on the url provided above.

      Buddhists, as I understand, place more emphasis on the intent and devotion of the practitioner than on the pronunciation. Perhaps this applies primarily to Tibetan traditions? I have several CDs of chanting and always find it interesting how the same prayer or chant can sound so differently from one CD to another -- and these are all recordings made by Tibetan monks.

      There are several stories that illustrate the point of the importance of intent when making recitations but here is one that I especially like.

      "An old story speaks about a similar problem. A devoted meditator, after years concentrating on a particular mantra, had attained enough insight to begin teaching. The student's humility was far from perfect, but the teachers at the monastery were not worried.

      "A few years of successful teaching left the meditator with no thoughts about learning from anyone; but upon hearing about a famous hermit living nearby, the opportunity was too exciting to be passed up.

      "The hermit lived alone on an island at the middle of a lake, so the meditator hired a man with a boat to row across to the island. The meditator was very respectful of the old hermit. As they shared some tea made with herbs the meditator asked him about his spiritual practice. The old man said he had no spiritual practice, except for a mantra which he repeated all the time to himself. The meditator was pleased: the hermit was using the same mantra he used himself -- but when the hermit spoke the mantra aloud, the meditator was horrified!

      "'What's wrong?' asked the hermit.

      "'I don't know what to say. I'm afraid you've wasted your whole life! You are pronouncing the mantra incorrectly!'

      "'Oh, Dear! That is terrible. How should I say it?'

      "The meditator gave the correct pronunciation, and the old hermit was very grateful, asking to be left alone so he could get started right away. On the way back across the lake the meditator, now confirmed as an accomplished teacher, was pondering the sad fate of the hermit.

      "'It's so fortunate that I came along. At least he will have a little time to practice correctly before he dies.' Just then, the meditator noticed that the boatman was looking quite shocked, and turned to see the hermit standing respectfully on the water, next to the boat.

      "'Excuse me, please. I hate to bother you, but I've forgotten the correct pronunciation again. Would you please repeat it for me?'

      "'You obviously don't need it,' stammered the meditator; but the old man persisted in his polite request until the meditator relented and told him again the way he thought the mantra should be pronounced.

      "The old hermit was saying the mantra very carefully, slowly, over and over, as he walked across the surface of the water back to the island." (from http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/meaning-of-om-mani-padme-hung.htm )

      Hope this clears any muddy water.

      May all be at peace.

      "As I am, so are others;
      as others are, so am I."
      Having thus identified self and others,
      harm no one nor have them harmed.

      (Sutta Nipata 3.710)

      From: ken <gebser@...>
      To: Buddhism_101@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Sun, October 4, 2009 2:38:36 PM
      Subject: [Buddhism_101] pronunciation of Tibetan terms & names & mantras on websites

      One minor but significant difficulty I often have in my practice-- and
      I'd expect many others do too-- is an inability to know how to pronounce
      Tibetan names and terms.  I feel this inability most when learning a new
      mantra, but at other times too.

      Being a bit conversant with web technologies, I'm confident that it
      would not be too difficult to create an audio file (e.g., .wav or .ogg
      or .mpg) containing a recited mantra or meditational song or deity name
      or other Tibetan name or term typically difficult for non-Tibetans to
      pronounce.  Such audio files posted to a website and so made publicly
      available would be of considerable benefit to a lot of people who are
      trying to improve and enhance their practice.

      For those webmasters (and I believe there are several on this Buddhism
      101 list) who are unfamiliar with digital audio technology, there's a
      free application called Audacity which is quite suitable.  Our sangha
      uses it to record dharma talks.  As said, Audacity is free to download
      from the web, it works on Linux, UNIX, Windows, and other systems, and
      it has documentation on how to use it.  A web search should supply a lot
      of other documentation on Audacity and how to post a sound file to
      webpage.  As for hardware, any PC which is not too old and which has a
      sound card should be fine.  Add to this an inexpensive microphone (I got
      one for free with the sound card I purchased about ten years ago) and a
      set of earbuds, and you have everything needed.

      If you have a website for us needy buddhists and need help with audio
      website components but the above isn't enough help, contact me and I'll
      see what help I can provide you.

      Om mani padme hum.


      War is a failure of the imagination.
              --William Blake

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