22 Jan 2011

ヨガ・ストラ and Japanese

It seems like I have been studying Japanese for ever and ever, although admittedly I am not the most consistant of students.  The more I know, the more I can say, the more I need to know, the more I want to know. 

So I often study a  Yoga Sutra,  look up the words in Japanese and then try to explain to my very patient, understanding, kind and wonderful students.  I get some laughs as my Japanese can be on the eccentric side, but I think I get my message accross.

Although this week's sutra was 1:33 using Gregor Maehle's version, as I also have that in Japanese and can check word choice.  It's a lovely sutra and one we can easily keep in mind and apply in daily life.  Nothing too abstract yet could have profound effects on mind. 

The sutra is:
Clarity of mind is produced by meditating on friendliness towards the happy, compassion towards the miserable, joy towards the virtuous and indifference towards the wicked.

So I go into class armed with my newly looked up words and start to explain.  I don't get very far though.

The word clarity 清澄 seemed to cause confusion.  I had checked the dictionary, and then the Japanense version of the sutra, confident I had the right choice.  BUT, that's the thing with Japanese, because there are sooo many words that sound the same, but have different Chinese characters, and some words aren't spoken much but rather reserved only for the realms of print.  As was the case for this word.

The word is seicho, which can mean orthodox tune, growth, adult birdt, tone, sexual characteristics, clarity, attention, medicine for intestinal disorders, stroke (rowing) government office, depending on which character goes with it.  They thought I was saying to grow your mind, or misprouncing the word meaning normal.....seijyo......ah dear.  My japanese teacher was in class and said I should just use the English word clear, but I want to use Japanese,.  Japanese borrow so many words from English, often they have the vocabularly but it is somewhat archaic or difficult, but I think this is detrimental to the language.  Eventually over lunch I found the appropriate Japanese word that would be understood when spoken.  Senmei 鮮明

My other words to add to my list for the day were

徳の高い人 Virtuous Person
あわれみ Compassion
親しみ Friendly
無関心 Indifference

I do enjoy trying to figure out the sutra in Japanese though, it's a wonderful excercise and I find that it really deepens my own understanding of the sutras.  As often subtleties of language and meaning that we take for granted have to be thought over and analysed to make sure what I am saying is what I am meaning. Ha ha ha.  Get's a few laughs in class anyways!!


  1. Love your blog, thanks for writing!

    I teach asana in French and sometimes end up saying strange things, too! It's because English is so much more elastic, has so many more descriptors, you can make a verb out of anything (cup your sacrum!)... whereas French doesn't allow for that much free-styling. But the students don't seem to mind. ;)

    PS, thanks for the beautiful photos as well!

  2. Thank you x So nice to hear from you, and someone else teaching in a second language. Students may even like it ya know, some of mine have said my Japanese is cute....hmmmm oh well ; )

  3. ;)

    Yes I get that too--my French is cute! ;)

    I have a private blog (sadly neglected, as this year has been super full-on--I got married and became step mother to 3 boys!). I'll put you on the reading list if you have a Wordpress username. Send it to me at joysuzanne at gmail dot com if you're interested. Great to find your blog, I stop by here very often!