July 13, 2021

Apropos the Tibetan Expression ’dom na

In the Mahāvyutpatti we often come across small remarks in between the Tibetan translations of Sanskrit words such as ’dom na or ma ’dom na. Similar expressions can be found in Rong-zom-pa’s writings. One such example would be: sgra ’dom pa’i skabs yin pas. I do not recall whether or not and what other scholars—such as Alexander Csoma de Kőrös, Nils Simonson, Peter Vehagen, and so on—understood these remarks. But here I merely wish to record what occurs to my mind now. At least what Rong-zom-pa seems to do while explaining a Sanskrit word in Tibetan is (a) to explain the word in general, in a broad or loose sense, and without referring to a certain context (i.e. context-free), and (b) then explain the word in a more stricter or narrower sense, and by referring to a specific context (i.e. context-bound). In such contexts, the clause sgra ’di ma ’dom na seems to mean “if the term/word is not chosen/selected for a context-bound usage” (i.e. if the word is used in a general/broad/loose sense). Likewise, the clause sgra ’di ’dom na seems to mean “if the term/word is chosen/selected for a specific context-bound usage” (i.e. if the word is used in a strict/narrow sense). The verb ’dom in this context is to be understood in the sense of “to choose/select” or “to opt for.” This become obvious, for example, in his explanation of term mur rtug. This is merely a personal memo.

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