April 23, 2016


It so happens occasionally that we do not notice what is obvious. This may be because we either take a thing for granted as known or we have not yet asked the question in the first place. Let us take the etymology of the Tibetan word rgyang grags. We know that it is a unit of distance, a kind of Indian league. But have we asked what the words rgyang and grags could mean? You may have and but I have not. Of course we could look for  explanations out there (e.g. in Abhidharma commentaries). One of the usefulness of bilingual (e.g. Sanskrit-Tibetan or Tibetan-Sanskrit) sources is that it often helps us to regain the meaning of a Tibetan word that we may have forgotten or the etymology of a Tibetan word that we may not know. The etymology of rgyang grags is a good example. The Tibetan word itself may not disclose its etymology to an unsuspecting or incurious reader. But if we consider the Sanskrit word for rgyang grags, that is, krośa, its etymology might become immediately obvious. The word krośa is primarily said to mean “a cry, yell, shriek, shout” (MW). By the way, also klośa means “calling out to” (MW) and it is interesting that not only Japanese people confuse or interchange r and l. Thus krośa as a unit of measurement is said to be “the range of the voice in calling.” With this background knowledge, the etymology of rgyang grags would become conceivable: “[range of] distance (rgyang) [within which] a calling (grags) [is audible].”


  1. Dear D, The distance of a distant shout? There's a kind of parallel in the visual rather than auditory field that I've encountered in the Zhijé Collection a time or two — rgyang myig.

    It appears, too, in the Chang Yisun dictionary:
    rgyang mig — 1) rgyang ring gsal por mthong ba'i mig ,... 2) rjes yong sngon dran gyi bsam mno gtong shes pa ,... rgyang mig ring po ,... rgyang mig mi mthong mkhan ,...

    Here's an example from Zhijé Collection vol. 2, p. 441, line 3: rgyang myig mdun du ltos. Good advice for politicians. Or for anyone for that matter. "Look forward [with a] far-reaching eye!" Does that mean think ahead? Ohaiyu gozaimas from Tôkyô! -D

  2. Dear D, arigato gozaimashita ありがとうございました! D.