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Sanskrit pronunciation?

zenguitarzenguitar Bad BuddhistNew England Veteran

Greetings Sangha, I am interested specifically in how you are supposed to pronounce the last word of the mantra that appears at the end of the Heart Sutra (below). I have heard varying pronunciations; all I know is that it is not pronounced as it is spelled in English. Also, are there different "dialects" of Sanskrit, depending on where it is spoken?

Gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā

Comments

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I have heard it both "swa" and "so-ha" Our sangha pronounces it "so-ha" but my teacher is Tibetan and that, as I understand, is because of a difference in dialect and pronunciation of various sounds in Tibetan versus Sanskrit.

    Reading through this, it appears it is more "swaha" with the "a" making the sound as in "father" and the s and h making typical English sounds. The v is pronounced more as a w.
    http://www.visiblemantra.org/pronunciation.html

    zenguitar
  • I've always heard it like swah-ha. Swah as in far.

    zenguitar
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Try listening to this.

    Perhaps copying may be more of a challenge, but it's 'authentic'...

    zenguitar
  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    @federica said:
    Try listening to this.

    Perhaps copying may be more of a challenge, but it's 'authentic'...

    Thanks, I wonder what "Tayata" means though.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    tayata means "do it like this"
    It starts many chants.

  • GlowGlow Veteran
    edited February 2015

    Yes, it depends on on where you're from. Among Indians, it's pronounced pretty much as transliterated there: svah-hah <-- with the "v" pronounced as in English.

    But here:

    @federica said:
    Try listening to this.

    Perhaps copying may be more of a challenge, but it's 'authentic'...

    ... you can hear a very clear Tibetan phonological influence on the pronunciation there. The reason you will sometimes hear what sounds like "so(a)-ha" in Tibetan congregations is because the Tibetan language has different phonemes than Indic languages. The s+v combination is very difficult for them to pronounce, so they use their closest analog, which is s+o(a). It would be like an English speaker trying to begin a word with ng + a consonant; that's a very unintuitive combination of phonemes in our language, and we'd probably just resort to making the initial "ng" sound silent.

    It's for this same reason, you'll often hear Thais pronounce Pali with a "w" sound at the beginning of the word "vedana", while in Sri Lanka and India, you'll hear something much closer to the English "v."Likewise, speakers of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean often having trouble differentiating between "r" and "l" in English, because those sounds exist in completely different contexts in those languages.

    zenguitarlobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited February 2015

    I think this has been mentioned before;

    There are 'schools' of absolute and inflexible purists who will tell 'you' (generic) that pronunciation is of paramount importance, and that if you're not saying it right, then you're not doing it right, and no amount of mantra recitation will have any desired effect at all. You might as well recite 'Mary had a little lamb'.....

    Then again, other folks will tell you that, hey! Who gives a flying doo-dah? Just say it any way you want - and if it just so happens to end up sounding like 'Mary had a little lamb', who's gonna stomp on you anyways? What is this, an exam? An ordeal? A test?! Gimme a break, just say the damn thing the way you say it, and go for it!!

    Middle Way.

    Do your best, but don't beat yourself up.

    You telling me that all these English bibles are any less 'Sacred or Holy' than the original papyrus scroll texts?

    Or for that matter, that all these translations of the Suttas are to be dismissed because they're not in Pali?

    I heard a visiting Italian priest in our local Catholic church (long time ago, you understand...) participating in the mass, reciting the 'Our father' in English, but with a strong Italian accent...

    "Haor fadder, wheech hart een 'evven..."

    Still the 'Our father', bless 'heem'...

    Check up on the pronunciation, by all means, but relax and enjoy the recitation for what it is.
    Don't get so anxious about it, that it's all you think/obsess about.

    zenguitarlobster
  • ^ Right.

    I remember watching the documentary Jesus Camp and seeing children "speaking in tongues" (essentially just mouthing incoherent strings of syllables that sound vaguely like Hebrew/Aramaic). So long as you're not doing THAT or the Peter Griffin thing from Family Guy where he just speaks gibberish in lieu of Italian, you'll probably be fine. ;)

  • When I first got involved in Theravada I thought "anicca" was pronounced like anikar.
    I soon got put straight, it should be like aneecha.
    Does it matter? No, not really. What matters is understanding and experiencing what it is.

  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    Thanks everyone! @SpinyNorman , of course anicca is pronounced "aneecha," it comes from the same linguistic root as "Gucci" and "fettuccine." :wink:

  • So the Buddha was Italian? ;)

    lobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Si.
    Darta Gautama.

  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    Of course, he was the bambino from Lumbini. :smile:

  • Is that a type of ice cream? ;)

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yes. Pistachio nuts, sour cherries and salame.

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