Tibetan language/Punctuation and terma marks

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Tsheg[edit | edit source]

There are short breaks in Tibetan punctuation, like a comma is a short break in English; that is the normal tsheg. Then there are long breaks like an English fullstop or period; that is a long tsheg, also called a shad or stroke.

In grammar, a shad is actually a version of a tsheg. What is often understood as a "tsheg" is called a short tsheg and a shad is called a long tsheg. This is so, because tsheg means "break" (literally the sound "snap"). When writing in Tibetan, a shad is actually started as a normal tsheg and then lengthened, thus it is also physically speaking a long tsheg.

Now we may understand that the gter tsheg, which is the equivalent of a long tsheg (shad) is actually a tsheg, but one used specifically for terma.

Terma marks[edit | edit source]

A dakini text is a kind of terma text. Termas are revealed literature and are a genre unto themselves in the Tibetan spiritual literary tradition. Terma and dakini texts often have special marks and punctuation which is salient to the genre and tradition and often exquisitely beautiful to the eye. There are a vast number of these marks which has posed a significant challenge for Tibetan Unicode and terma translations. Generally, an initial 'yig mgo mdun ma' (U+0F04) or 'zla tshe gnyis' plus a 'shad' are found in the upper left corner of a normal Tibetan text in pecha format. In some pechas the 'zla tshe gnyis' are replaced by special signs and the shad’s are replaced by the terma break 'gter tsheg' or in front of the 'gter ma' alphabet or text. These specific signs belong to the texts itself, not to the tertons (gter ston ). In addition, beside these marks exist a lot of different specific terton signs the 'gter ston gter btags'.[1] In summary, there are terma marks specific to individual terma that often are embellishments or flourishes augmenting standard punctuation. Specific tertons also often have marks which are related to their revealing activity, also known as terma marks or terma signs. Often, the terma mark is all that is revealed to the terton. Within this resides the entire terma. It may also be understood as a seal of authenticity. Similarly, the terton mark specific to the terton is at once their seal of authenticity as a revealer as well as their key to access the terma. That said, this is a very complex and esoteric matter and this is only a cursory introduction.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Source: http://www.dakiniscripts.at/downloads/punctuationmarks.pdf (accessed: Wednesday August 26, 2009).