Friday, March 9, 2007

energy or blessing?

In the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, one of the prayers often used in the practice "Guru Yoga" reads:

Treasured teacher, I pray to you.
Give me energy to let self-fixation go.
Give me energy to be free of need.
Give me energy to stop ordinary thinking.
Give me energy to know mind has no beginning.
Give me energy to let confusion subside on its own.
Give me energy to know all experience is pure being.

I've been asked a number of times why I translate "blessing" as "energy". There is a significant difference in emotional tone and "blessing" is the most common usage (and the one I used in my early days).

The word "blessing" has its roots in sacrifice: from the On-line Etymological Dictionary

O.E. bletsian, bledsian, Northumbrian bloedsian "to consecrate, make holy," from P.Gmc. *blothisojan "mark with blood," from *blotham "blood" (see blood). Originally a blood sprinkling on pagan altars.
This word was chosen in O.E. bibles to translate L. benedicere and Gek. eulogein, both of which have a ground sense of "to speak well of, to praise," but were used in Scripture to translate Heb. brk "to bend (the knee), worship, praise, invoke blessings." Meaning shifted in late O.E. toward "to confer happiness, well-being," by resemblance to unrelated bliss. No cognates in other languages. Blessing is O.E. bledsung.

These associations are all foreign to my experience of guru yoga or other forms of prayer in Buddhism. So, I started to hunt for an alternative.

My experience is one of a kind of energy, through devotion. An emotional energy. And the Tibetan byin.brlabs (pron. jin-lap) itself means "a wave of something given" or "to flood with something given". This does correspond with my experience.

Clearly, translation problems go back a long way, viz., the choice to use the word "blessing" to translate "benedicere", which has a completely different set of associations.