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Sanskrit Lesson#5

by Bhikshuni Heng Hsien 比丘尼恒賢 文
Chinese translation by Bhikshuni Heng Yi 比丘尼恒懿 中譯



namo 和是同一個字,字典上此字是寫成 namas 。這三個字都是同一個字。

現在你也許可以猜到,梵文的書寫系統,是要盡量地接近人講話時的聲音,無論你說的是梵文、英文或廣東話,一個字的音聲是很可能被下個字的音聲所影響,兩個音聲甚至被合併成一音。在梵文的書寫裡,常顯出這種發音的改變。所以我們依下一個字的音而寫 namo, , 或namas。然而大部分的情況下是寫成 namo(南無),雖然有時它不是本字或字典上的字,但是它確是最常改變成的字型,不止 namas 有這種情形,很多其他的字,也有相同的情況。在梵文裡這是一種很普遍的特色。

當我們把 namas 借用到別種語言,你也許認為字典上會用此字,但是因為是 namo 不是 namas,是最常用到的字,所以它成為英文或中文的用字。以至於 namo 成為任何情形下的用字,不因下一個字的音聲而改變。於是符合中、英文的文法規則和變化字型的字尾型式。但在梵文下一個字的字首 s 它則發音成 1 於是題目念為


- 是字的語幹(或字根)或是字典上的字型,那麼其字尾加上 āya 是否也像一樣是屬於尾音的改變呢?不是的,這種字尾是表示它在一句話裡的作用,在英文說 "to the All-Knowing one" 向一切智者表示敬意,所以 āya 等於英文中的 'to'3 ,我們是向佛 皈命敬禮,念佛名號的句子是 Namo'mitābhabuddhāya,是由 namas 南無、 Amitābha 阿彌陀和 Buddha 佛,組合而來。Namas 的字尾 as 和 Amitābha 的字首 a 合併成一音 o ,但它還是兩個不同的字,而雖然阿彌陀和佛兩個字合成一字,但之間並無合併音,如果這兩個字的字尾,都有加上 āya,則是兩個字,但是我們從 āya 只加在 Buddha 之後,就知道阿彌陀佛是一個字。所以 Namo'mitā-bha-buddhāya 的翻譯是,向阿彌陀佛皈命敬禮。如果你能至誠懇切的專心念此句,則會現在你面前。那你就能看到 佛。

1 你練習一下,你會發現當一個字的字首為 s 之前念 namas 你無法完全聽到 s 的發音,而結果成為一種氣音如。在英文 就用 z 音來騙,以便形成可聽到的音。
2 宣公上人講解清涼國師的華嚴疏鈔時所說。
3 文法上這是屬於間接受格。


"Namo to the One with All Knowledge"

Last issue's Sanskrit lesson introduced the S&tra's title: Sukhāvatīvyūha, "Layout of the Land of Happiness". Now we will read the invocation, "Homage to the One Who Knows All". , 'homage' or 'reverence', literally means 'bowing'. It refers to taking refuge and returning the life in worship. Because , has so many meanings, it generally is not translated at all, and the Sanskrit word itself is used. When you go to a Buddhist Temple, whatever the language of the ceremony, you will hear the word namo used frequently:

Namo Buddhas of the ten directions.
Namo Dharma of the ten directions.
Namo Sangha of the ten directions...

This namo is the same word as . Looking the word up in the dictionary, you will find it written namas. These three are all the same word.

By now you've probably guessed: the Sanskrit writing system is designed to represent as closely as possible the actual sounds people say when they speak. Whether you speak Sanskrit, English, or Cantonese, the end of the word is especially likely to be influenced by the sound with which the next word begins. The two sounds may even merge to form one sound. Sanskrit writing always indicates this change in pronounciation. And so, depending on what sound follows, we write namo, , or namas. In most cases, however, the sound changes to the form namo, which is not the 'original', or dictionary form, but just the form into which the word most frequently changes. This change occurs not only with namas, but happens often with other words as well, and can be said to be regular feature of Sanskrit.

When borrowing namas into another language, you might expect the dictionary form to be used. But because namo and not namas is the form most often heard, that form of the word most naturally becomes an English or Chinese word. Then instead of changing the pronounciation of the borrowed word, namo, according to the sound which follows it, as in Sanskrit, the one form namo is used in every case, thereby conforming to the grammatical rules and inflectional endings of English and Chinese. But in Sanskrit itself, before a word beginning with s, it is pronounced 1 . This accounts for the form in .

means 'to  the All-knower', 'to the Omniscient'. The All-Knowing One is the Buddha. Before beginning the S&tra we worship and take refuge with the Buddha:
What you don't know he knows;
What you've not figured out he has;
What you don't see he sees.2

- is the 'stem' or dictionary form of the word. Is the ending āya then a sound change as we had in above? No, this ending shows how the word is used in its phrase, and is a mark of its function. In English we say 'to' the All-Knowing  One; āya represents the English 'to'.3 Homage, , is 'to' the Buddha, we bow 'to' the Buddha. In reciting the Buddha's name, the phrase is Namo'mitābhabuddhāya. This is made up of  the wordsnamas, Amitābha, and Buddha. The final -as of namas and the intial a of Amitābha combine to make one sound o, but the words are still two separate words. Between Amitābha and Buddha there is no sound combination even though the two words are joined to make one word. You can tell this has happened because the function marker āya is placed only after Buddha instead of after both Amitābha and Buddha as would be the case were they separate words. So the translation of Namo'mitābhabuddhāya is "Homage to the Buddha Amitābha." If you can recite this with one mind in perfect sincerity, the of unfolds before you, and you see the Buddha .

1 Practicing, you will hear how the s of namas can't be fully heard when pronounced before another word which begins with s, but ends up a kind of puff of air which is written as the letter . In English we cheat and say a kind of z before an s, as in 'hears sounds'.
2 The Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's lecture on National Master Ch'ing Liang's commentary to the Sūtra, June 25th, 1972.
3 This is the dative, indirect object, case

To be continued


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