December 21, 2015

ཐ་རམས། ཐ་རམ།

Words seem to be make sense only if taken naïvely and non-analytically. Take the Tibetan word tha rams. Some of us may have heard of the gSang sngags bka’i tha rams. But what is tha rams? Is it the same as tha ram (Jäschke 1881: s.v. tha ram “the breadth of a plain” or “a medicinal herb”)? Clearly not. None of the three meanings of tha ram in the Tshig mdzod chen mo seems to suit here. Evidently the Tshig mdzod chen mo considers tha ram and tha rams to be clearly two distinct words, the latter being an archaic word for gtams pa (“filled”). bTsan-lha’s brDa dkrol (p. 284) gives two meanings of tha rams. bTsan-lha’s suggested second meaning, namely, “rope,” “string,” or “chain” (’ching thag) is quite convincing especially if we consider the example lcags kyi tha rams kyis bsdams nas. If we take this meaning of tha ramsgsang sngags bka’i tha rams would mean something like the “cord that secures the Mantric teachings.” But can it mean something else? Can tha rams in the sense of gtams pa (“filled”) mean something like “replenished” or “studded” and thus “treasury” or “treasure trove.” Thus gsang sngags bka’i tha rams would mean something like “treasure trove of Tantric teachings.” Such a meaning would be confirmed by the use tha rams (but here actually: ram) ’byed pa’i lde mig (NKSG, vol. 17, pp. 123.2, 125.6).

1 comment:

  1. Tha-rams means 'lock' in the 11th and 12th centuries, and still might have that meaning sometimes. (Just as happens with bow and arrow, and with the male and female signs, there may be a flipflop between words and their meanings when you look in neighboring Tibeto-Burman languages, and this would explain who you find a Darma word tarum that means 'key.')
    This word is used at the beginning of the main text of the Gab-pa dgu skor. Here is a sample sentence: nyon rmongs tha rams sngon po dam // de 'byed 'phrul gyi lde mig stor // "[To] the solid blue lock of negativities [we have] lost the miraculous key that opens it." This word is also found in the Gsang-ba Bsen-thub. Also found in Bon vinaya text (192-vol. Bon Kanjur CLXXIV 252): tha ram btsan byed lde mig rnyed bzhin dga' ba'o. Have located it in an early collection of Zhi-byed works: tha rams myi 'byed pa'i lde dmyig la dgos pa myi gda' gsung ['there is no need for a key that does not open a/the lock']. Zhi-byed Coll. II 168.1 (for example). This word is actually preserved in Darma language as tarum, 'key' (Shree Krishan's article in Nagano & LaPolla, eds., New Research on Zhangzhung, p. 394). Don't you have this word in some Bhutanese languages/dialects? Happy Weihnachts!