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A letter to Classical Tibetan
Dear Classical Tibetan,
our story began three years ago, when I came to Nepal to study a Buddhist text at a Shedra, and they also offered Classical Tibetan lessons.
In the beginning, I was amazed by all your lines and squiggles, since I never learned an alphabet different from my own. When I first managed to transform these squiggles into actual sounds, I thought the hardest part would lie behind me. Little did I know. You forced me through your spellings that just made zero sense to me, and then you threw all these particles at me until I couldn’t feel my brain anymore. In the beginning, all I could understand were sentences about yaks and rabbits drinking tea. I hadn’t looked at a sutra in my life, and I was planning to keep it that way. But with your subtle but persistent charm you lured me into RYI, and there I was, sitting in a proper class setting, learning your expressions for Dharma things.
Slowly I got to read along puja texts and understanding a word here and there. I had used you before in prayers, and slowly I could match the English translation to the actual words. You know, you are quite different from everything I knew before. Your words aren’t separated, you just consist of syllables sticking to each other like me to my Tibetan dictionary. You reminded me of an other friend from the past, mathematics. When I decoded another of your fabrications, I felt the same happiness like when solving a math problem.
In the first semester we got along really well, your grammar seemed strange but pretty straight forward. But then we started to look at actual texts, and you really hurt me back then. You took all the linguistic confidence I had and just drowned it in a sea of omitted particles and page-long sentences. I was about to break up with you, but my only alternatives were your brother colloquial Tibetan and old auntie Sanskrit. And although you’re not always easy, I always preferred you over them.
Now it has been almost three years since our first encounter, and I still don’t have you as deeply in my brain as I wished, but my bi-weekly dates with you are always something I look forward to. We haven’t always been close, and often we don’t understand each other, but I think we have come to grown pretty good friends, and I will certainly miss you once I go back into a world where nobody has even heard of you. I know you have a lot of wisdom to offer, and I will try to take as much as possible.
With lots of love,
~ Maitri from Germany