October 04, 2014


In her talk, Janet Gyatso mentioned about the difficulty of translating nyams ’ur. I started to wonder if it (as a verb) can be rendered as “to undergo an outburst of [spiritual/mystical] experience.” As a noun perhaps ”outburst of [spiritual/mystical] experience”?


  1. I'm not sure of it, but I was of the impression that 'ur stood for the sound that the slingshot ('ur rdo) makes when it is getting spun around before letting the stone fly off... Doesn't 'ur-sgra mean a kind of loud and constant whirring or roaring sound? (Of course the meaning of 'ur could underlie the meaning of 'ur-rdo or the vice versa... who knows?)

    In that sense, I think what Janet said in her book on Jigme Lingpa about it meaning "buzz" has to be pretty much on the mark —

    a feeling of excitement. "a general term that according to my informants can describe anything from excited children, to a yogin performing feats like leaping onto a high rock, to the state of mind just before a vision dawns." Gyatso, Apparitions, p. 223.

    What do you think? There seems to be an element of anticipation in it. BTW, I'm back home in my own bed and had a very sound sleep, thanks g-ds.

  2. Dear D, Janet’s discussions and suggestions are admirable. I have been trying to capture the sense or feeling of the expression, not so much by trying to focus on the speculative etymology of ’ur (which would be normally my passion) but rather by trying to express the over-all sense. When a nyams does ’ur, or, when there is a nyams ’ur, the sense one gets is that there is “an outbreak of some commotion,” some “uproar, tumult, clamor, hue and cry, pandemonium, upheaval, excitement,” given rise to by some spiritual, or mystical experience. In such a state, a yogin would see things, do things, and act in a way that he or she normally would not do. The word “buzz” in the sense of an “atmosphere of excitement and activity” seems to come pretty close here but the primary meaning of “buzz” seems to be too weak. Any way one can go on I guess. D.

  3. Exactly, "buzz" in English expresses the excitement of the interior energies, but not quite so well the sense of anticipation, that you're on the verge of something...

    Buzz was originally a drug term of the 60's, I believe. But by now it's entered into the wider culture, until now when the kids use words like 'buzz-kill' where back in the 60's they would have said 'bummer' instead. I would think many people would hesitate to use 'buzz' knowing its background meaning.

    The sense an epileptic seizure will happen is a special experience epileptics have in anticipation of an attack (the usual word used for it is 'aura', which of course has other meanings), but I doubt anyone really looks forward to having a seizure. So I don't think this is a good direction to look for an analogy that could work as a translation...

    I give up, for now.
    I'll go and try to have this experience and get back with you.