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Re: [SGI] What language is Gongyo in?

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  • ryuei2000
    ... I m not really sure I do but let me try to explain. In Sanskrit the title of the Lotus Sutra is Saddharma punarika sutra. Saddharma is the Sanskrit word
    Message 1 of 37 , Oct 20, 2011
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      --- In SokaGakkaiUnofficial@yahoogroups.com, "Healing" <aesculapius_healing@...>
      > "What language is Gongyo in?"
      >
      > "Double-U, ay-che, aye, tee; elle, aye, en, gee, you, gee, eee; iz es .... (etc.)"
      >
      > Get what I mean?

      I'm not really sure I do but let me try to explain.

      In Sanskrit the title of the Lotus Sutra is "Saddharma punarika sutra."

      Saddharma is the Sanskrit word that means in English "wonderful Dharma"

      Pundarika is the Sanskrit word that means in English "lotus flower"

      Sutra is the Sanskrit word that means in English a "thread or discourse"

      Sanskrit is a language and it can be written in many different scripts - even the Roman alphabet though with lots of diacritical marks.

      Now the title of the Lotus Sutra (as a for instance) was translated into Chinese characters that are pronounced in modern Mandarin as:

      Saddharma - Miao fa

      Pundarika - Lien hua

      Sutra - Ching

      The Sanskrit word Namah was translated into two Chinese characters pronounced Na mo.

      When the Japanese pronounce these characters it become Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. So this is called Sino-Japanese because it is the Japanese way of approximating the sound of the Chinese characters as they learned them (in whatever dialect or dialects of Chinese they first heard them). The Japanese call this the "On" reading. There may even be more than one "On" reading for a particular Chinese character. Also each Chinese character will have a Japanese word associated with it as well. So for example the Chinese character used for "Buddha" is pronounced "fo" in Mandarin but in Japanese that character is "hotoke", though the "On" reading of that character is usually "butsu" or sometimes even just "fu" (as is the case in Shomyo hymns).

      So in short, Sino-Japanese is the "language" gongyo is in, but it is not really a spoken language at all - it is just the Japanese way of reciting a classical Chinese text.

      On to your other questions:


      > I suppose the other question I have is: if Gongyo as practiced by Sokka Gakkai and other Nichiren schools is not Chinese or even really Japanese, then why practice it this way? Why not chant it in modern day Japanese? Or modern day Chinese? Or something like that? Why was an ancient translation of the Lotus Sutra chosen? Why didn't Nichiren choose a more modern (at least for him) translation of the Lotus Sutra in Japanese?
      >

      In Nichiren's time, classical Chinese was the literary language of the day - just as the same as Latin was the language for educated Christians in medieval Europe.

      Actually, today in Japan, the sutras are often recited in Japanese (though not exactly a modern form). This is called the Kundoku (country reading), which basically means reciting the sutra in the vernacular. In North America in Nichiren Shu we also recite the sutra in English. In Korean and Chinese, Nichiren Shu members do recite the sutra using the local pronunciations.

      But why continue to recite the Sino-Japanese Kumarajiva translation? Because it is a common liturgical "language" that people all over the world can share together. Also, it connects us to the practice that Nichiren and his successors, and also his predecessors in the T'ien-t'ai school going back to Chih-i and Miao-lo used. It connects us to Kumarajiva's translation which is a classic in its own right, that is more significant to East Asian Buddhist faith and practice than the Sanskrit original.


      > Funny thing, but somewhere along the line I started to get the idea that in addition to feeding my spirit I may also be gaining a skill by learning Japanese via Gongyo. It sort of burst my bubble to realize that this is not in fact the case. It just sort of boggles my mind that Gongyo ultimately isn't in any language at all.
      >

      Well you are getting good at Japanese phonetics - so that can be helpful. Also, you could buy James Heisig's books "Remembering the Kanji" (three volumes) and that will teach you more about the On-readings. If you learn enough Kanji and classical Chinese grammar (not too different that English in many cases strangely enough) you can try your hand at translating sutra passages for yourself.

      Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
      Ryuei
    • carlos
      Reverend.... You are profoundly patient...
      Message 37 of 37 , Nov 3, 2011
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        Reverend.... You are profoundly patient...

        --- In SokaGakkaiUnofficial@yahoogroups.com, ryuei2000 <no_reply@...> wrote:
        >
        > test
        >
        > --- In SokaGakkaiUnofficial@yahoogroups.com, "Healing" <aesculapius_healing@> wrote:
        > >
        > > Hi again everyone. I'm the one who started this thread. I'm delighted by the way it has taken off. I have a lot of reading to catch up on. I wonder, however, if my question has been answered. My original question was: "What language is Gongyo in?"
        > >
        > > I'll try, again, to see if I can put it into words. To my understanding as a result of this thread, Gongyo is not in Chinese or Japanese either. Gongyo is a reading of the Lotus Sutra as translated into ancient Tang-era Chinese -- BUT it is not read in Chinese. Gongyo is the letter-by-letter Japanese pronunciation of the Tang-era Chinese translation.
        > >
        > > Would it be something like this?
        > >
        > > "What language is Gongyo in?"
        > >
        > > "Double-U, ay-che, aye, tee; elle, aye, en, gee, you, gee, eee; iz es .... (etc.)"
        > >
        > > Get what I mean?
        > >
        > > Again, I'm still just a bit surprised that this isn't more readily known or available information. The books I have simply make reference to it being an "archaic" language. This is all fascinating for me and I really want to get to the bottom of it! lol
        > >
        > > I suppose the other question I have is: if Gongyo as practiced by Sokka Gakkai and other Nichiren schools is not Chinese or even really Japanese, then why practice it this way? Why not chant it in modern day Japanese? Or modern day Chinese? Or something like that? Why was an ancient translation of the Lotus Sutra chosen? Why didn't Nichiren choose a more modern (at least for him) translation of the Lotus Sutra in Japanese?
        > >
        > > Funny thing, but somewhere along the line I started to get the idea that in addition to feeding my spirit I may also be gaining a skill by learning Japanese via Gongyo. It sort of burst my bubble to realize that this is not in fact the case. It just sort of boggles my mind that Gongyo ultimately isn't in any language at all.
        > >
        > > Thanks,
        > >
        > > Andrew
        > >
        > > --- In SokaGakkaiUnofficial@yahoogroups.com, "djgropp" <djgropp@> wrote:
        > > >
        > > > <<Nikkyo Niwano's "Buddhism For Today" ... Shinjo Siguro's "Introduction to the Lotus Sutra">>
        > > >
        > > > I will check them out since you've recommended them, but wow, it seems I already have too much to ever read it all.
        > > >
        > > >
        > >
        >
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