June 09, 2012


Considering the archaic orthography 'od gzer for 'od zer, we would assume that gzer and zer are cognates and that 'od zer actually means something like "light nails/spokes."


  1. Dear D, Good to see you back in the saddle, pardner! The Btsan-lha dictionary also has gnyi-gzer, for sunray (nyi-zer). Doesn't gzer also have the possible meaning of 'reins' for a horse (or a horse cart)? I have an example from Jigten Gönpo's works, and another from a Nyingma source.

    I don't think *this* meaning is very surprising, since every (or practically every) Sanskrit word that means 'rein' can also be used to mean 'ray' (like the most usual word raśmi).

    I imagine people used to think the sun was pulled by horses just because the rays in the sunset made them think of reins... You know, explaining why "rta bdun" is just an epithet of the sun.

    But then it's clear most of the time gzer does mean something like peg/nail/spike.

    I just got a new dictionary Brda rnying tshig mdzod gsar bsgrigs, Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang (Lhasa 2011), in 381 pages, small format. I've already noticed it does have some interesting definitions (although some are just what you find in other "archaic terminology" glossaries). Its entry for 'od-gzer: 'od-gzer / snang-ba'i yon-tan.

    Would you think it too much of a stretch to connect zer and gzer with gzir-ba, paining or piercing (someone or something), and, come to think of it the agate, gzi?

    I've seen examples where the gzir seems to have the meaning intended even though the text reads gzer, which could just be a spelling problem?

    OK, I'll let you go do some real work! If you snap the reins I may go do some of that too!


  2. Dear D,

    Another thing I wanted to say about light spikes. It isn't very well known, so I'm not sure if I ought to spill the beans, but the Avatamsaka (Phal-po-che) Sûtra was such a huge text that the later editors never bothered to fix the Old Tibetan translation into more 'modern' spelling standards (in fact, there are some bits of it in Dunhuang that ought to be compared to the Kanjur. In effect, it's a [definitely] pre-Mongol period [and probably Imperial Period] text fossilized in our modern Kanjur. Don't tell the Dunhuang Tibetan specialists or it might endanger their neat categories.) This makes it a very rich source of archaic spellings and the like. It's filled with the spelling 'od-gzer (my computer counts 175 occurrences of exactly this spelling and not even one occurrence of the spelling 'od-zer).

    Hmmm. If you go to the OTDO site and search for 'od-zer in the OT texts they have there you don't have a single hit. However, if you search for 'od-gzer, you get two hits in the same text, PT_0016:

    23r4 I 'da' bar 'gro ba thams cad 'dul ba la mkhas pa 'od gzer rnam par 'phro bas khams gsum zIl kyIs gnon pha /
    28r2 na myI g.yo bar bzhugs kyang thugs rje chen po'i 'od gzer dang / thams cad mkhyen pa'I ye shes skad cig ...

    This text is the same "Prayer of Dega Yutsal" translated in Matthew Kapstein's book Buddhism between Tibet and China, pp. 31-35.

    That's all for this morning!



    I made a typo in the earlier comment, when quoting the entry in that Archaic Term dictionary, which ought to read like this: 'od-gzer: 'od-zer / snang-ba'i yon-tan.

  3. Dear Dan,

    I am so sorry I could not be active with these stuffs. I shall, try to return to these, as soon as I can.

    Many thanks for your comments and insights.


  4. D, Do you think 'od-gzer would have become 'od-zer just because of a tendency to drop prescript consonants when they come in the middle of a 2-syllable term? A kind of letter-"reduction"?

    Have been searching around for more occurrences of the spelling 'od-gzer, and they do pop up in surprising places. I think all are pre-Mongol (before mid-13th century), although not all are imperial period).

    Try searching for it at the Vienna site and see what texts have it. I think it's extremely interesting that the Eight Thousand Prajnaparamita text has many occurrences of both spellings, which seems to indicate that itt was partially revised to new spelling standards and partially left unrevised. (I would even predict that those parts that *do* have the 'od-gzer spelling would have yet other archaisms.)


  5. Dear Dan, it sounds very much likely. And then we have the Tibetan word for “to ache or feel the pain.”


  6. So would the real meaning be reins or spikes? If it's related to words for being pained, the nail/spike meaning would seem more appropriate. Which reminds me, I have a dentist appointment.

  7. I've recently noticed another word spelling that evidently belongs to the same time period as 'od-gzer, lightrays, is nam-kha/nam-ka, sky (instead of later written Tibetan nam-mkha'). This, too, may be verified by checking the ODTO website. Does the spelling nam-kha do anything to our etymology of nam-mkha'? And why is nam sometimes spelled gnam (with somewhat different usage?)?