Cry for the Mother Tongue
Written by JMDJ-Lhoba Gyurmé Dorjé
Translated by Tselo Gyathar
The mother tongue is both the first gift passed down from our ancestors and will be the last sweet voice in our memories. The mother tongue is the spiritual essence of thousands mountains on the Tibetan Plateau, ranging from Mount Kailash in the Himalayas to Anyi Machen and Khawa Karpo in the east. There are three regions in the land of Tibet, including the three areas of Ngari in upper Tibet, the four areas of U Tsang in central Tibet and the six mountain ranges of Dokham in lower Tibet. The Tibetan mother tongue is the heartbeat and breathe of the Tibetan people in these lands.
Although the world is becoming smaller, Tibet grows larger. Today the world has become smaller as it has transformed into an interconnected global village. People in Tibet and the diaspora have lost their tongue. This situation can be likened to a frail old man guarding a ferryboat by a river in solitude, or to a weak and tired girl sick inflicted with a serious illness. She stands alone at a city corner all alone. No one is willing to stay with her, and she can’t find a warming or comfortable place to stay.
As the saying goes, one can forget their hometown but never lose their mother tongue. The old aged whose language has suddenly vanished have no way to communicate with their descendants. Selfish parents have deprived their offspring of the right to speak their own tongue. Alas! The time of the divine Mani song, which takes on a bright light when song with the mother tongue. Nowadays, the new generations to seek out and request trifles rather than important affairs. What a poor mother tongue. The sun of yesterday has set and the moon of tonight is already passing. As time goes by, the mother tongue has gradually declined and no one can know for sure if it will appear with tomorrow’s rising sun.
Spreading from Lhoka to across the entire Snow Land, the mother tongue bears the love and compassion of the our forefather, the Boddhisattva monkey, and recalls the pleasant smiling of the mother-goddess ogress. Like the sweet voice of the lark singing on the grasslands, the melodious call of the cuckoo in the villages, the graceful dance by smoke curling above houses in the morning, the laughing sounds of herds of horses, yaks, and sheep, the mother tongue has a life and youth that thrives like crops of wheat, barley, and peas.
From the palace of Yumbu Lhagang to Potala palace, mother tongue is a gentle breeze of the three kinds of ancient Tibetan political means: tales, riddles and Bon religion. It takes its wings from the thirty-four letters of the Tibetan alphabet. It is the roaring sound of the ten Tibetan sciences. It is as bright as the splendor of King Gesar in his popular Epic and as old as Tibetan traditional songs about the creation of the earth. It has eyes that can visualize the whole world and that which is beyond it. It is the source and treasure of an ever-rising wisdom.
We are children of our mother tongue. Being like our parents, in both its spoken and written aspects, the Tibetan language is like a warm room for us to return to when we are abroad, or like a lamp that illuminates our path during a dark night. It is like a blazing flame in the freezing winter or a refreshing rain in the scorching summer. Like Butter-Tsampa and milk-yogurt when we are suffering from hunger and thirst. It brings us consolation when we experience grief in our life. Like a metallic mirror of fortune telling, it can tell us many things.
Do the deities of the realms of heaven and hell use our mother tongue? Do the hungry ghosts known as Preta use it? How about the Asura or demigods? In this human realm of progress and decline, our tongue has experienced great sufferings and tortures. In the highlands of Tibet, in particular, where people experience drastic shifts in heat and cold, hunger and thirst, our mother tongue has gone through the same. It would bring much relief if our mother tongue could be like an animal, served by human beings at all times.
Clouds and eagles aren’t essential to the sky, but the sun, moon, and stars are indeed indispensable. Can Without the smiling and songs but not without tradition and history in an ethnic group, we can have no Tsampa and robe but not without language given to us by our ancestors. We will begin to lose our mother tongue. Just like a beggar scrounging for food at home, after losing your tongue you can only receive shame and humiliation at the total loss of dignity for becoming a spineless person.
The three great Dharma kings firmly held and raised the victory banner in the three worlds. The brilliant Panditas and peerless scholars from India and Tibet have helped raise the pure sound of Dharmic teaching from Buddhist treatises. It is voice of the profound teachings of the successive sublime masters of Tibet, the roaring sound of their “exposition, debate, and composition.”
Amdopa, Utsangpa, Ngaripa, Byang brogpa, Khampa, Monpa, Lhopa,Tangpa, Motsopa, Bhutanese, Sikkimness, Ladakness, Tamangpa, Sherpas, Bhadipa, Botawa, as well as the ancient Tibetan tribes in Nepal and India: all of these groups speak the same language of Tibetan. The Chang and Nashi, and some ethnic groups from Barma are also originally from same lineage of Tibetan ancestors. The mother tongue is the golden bridge that connects all of these Tibetans together. It as the white scarf that welcomes foreign knowledge. It is the blue nectar wine that flows into fathers’ bowls. It as the sound of mothers counting rosaries in their hands. It as the backbone of every Tibetan man who has ever stood up. It is the two feet of Tibetan women moving ever forward. It is the prayer flag of wish-fulfilling that is beneficial to all Tibetan people.
Henceforward, whereever and whenever we must cherish our tongue with the same relish that children consume their mother’s milk. From now on, to be a man of character is to protect our tongue like the valuable treasures and precious jewels. Let us say, in the language of our mother tongue, “Tashi Delek” and bring peace and happiness to all Beings in the world.