Jan Willem and the shaman Don Lorenzo Jirillo discussing in Quechua
Recently I watched the movie ‘Arrival’. Alien spaceships have reached the Earth, and communication has to be established. The soldiers in the movie think as military men do, in terms of friend or foe; they only speak one language, that of war. De main character, the linguist Dr. Louise Banks understands that beings like the Heptapods (seven legs) that are physically so very different, must have differing concepts about everything as well. It comes about that due to the language of the Heptapods the human idea of linear time is a mistake. Because of this the world literally makes a U-turn. You have to see the movie to get the sense of what language is capable of.
I always have sensed that the fact of the missing from Quechua, the Inca language, of the possessive verb for ‘to have’ holds a lot of meaning about the way the Inca, but also the Quechua speakers of today perceive property, having things in possession. More languages have this trait, but in Quechua this non-possessive way of having things is quite obvious.* From my travels to Peru I have seen that in the mountains the land, and other resources are shared by the local people. Interestingly, when the government of Peru developed plans to privatise water distribution riots broke out. Water is in the minds of the Peruvian people a good for the benefit of all, which cannot be privately possessed.
Then the question arises, is our language capable of holding, and transferring the ideas of enlightenment and liberation in a way that can let sink the core notions into our minds? Or better, can we as humans attain in some way a consensual domain where these ideas can be disclosed in a way that our minds with as less distortion as possible can reconstruct them in their original form? In the movie the language of the Heptapods, once learned, made it possible to understand time in a different way as we do now. Quechua gives you a different understanding of possession.
Can we use language to understand ourselves in a different way as we do now? Or do we need another, or even a new language? This latter seems quite impractical, but should not be ruled out.
Zhabkar’s method in The Garuda is to meander with words, and their meaning in a way as versatile as possible, to let sink in the idea that the real meaning of enlightenment and liberation is beyond words and thinking. It is this ‘beyond’ that is so important. It is not only beyond words, and thinking, but also beyond acting, and success or defeat. I think that Zhabkar has done a wonderful job here. He points a something that probably only very few have understood.
It is not only about the words; it is also the frame of their range of meaning. Let me give an example. The word lta ba in Tibetan is most often translated with ‘the view’, in the sense of insight. But the range of meaning is much broader, from observation and perception to dogma and opinion, to view and vista, in the sense of the grand panorama of the view of something extraordinary. It holds this all, and we, with our meagre understanding of words only hear ‘view’, and understand something meagre accordingly.
It is like hearing: “You are like your mother!” According to the dictionary a mother is the female parent, but this is a bleak understanding of the feeling of ‘mother’. Here, in this example everyone can easily feel what is happening.
It is my opinion (bleak), conviction (less bleak), belief (even less bleak): I full heartedly believe we should try to find as much feeling as is possible in the words Zhabkar uses. Not only close reading, but really very close reading, sensing the vibration of the words, and feeling their evoked emotions, will make it possible to really sense what is enlightenment and liberation. For that reason I have already advised you to read the Songs out loud. But now I add that you, hearing a word, should try to sense its range of meaning to the fullest extent. Of some words I have given synonyms in the footnotes and the List of Terms. In future updates of the Flight of the Garuda I will mention more of them, especially of the most important words of the text, or as time unfolds, I hope to be able to uncover more layers of emotional expression of some of these words.
As an example for now I take ‘compassion’, which is described as ‘having the feeling of being aware of the suffering of another or of others, and the wish to relieve that suffering’. But is compassion only that? Synonyms are mercy, pity, sympathy, ruth, commiseration that are all described in the same way. But still none of these covers what Zhabkar with ‘compassion’ (snying rje in Tibetan) really talks about. This has to do with the literal translation of snying rje, which could be ‘heart exchange’, so exchange of the heart, or from the heart, which has become to mean compassion. The Tibetan rje also means ‘mastery’ or ‘Lord’, and might even be extended to ‘tool’, or ‘weapon’. Compassion is thus also mastery of the heart or even in a remote sense ‘weapon of the heart’. Although the latter seems counter intuitive, this sense perfectly expresses the meaning of compassion. Having read this connotation your understanding of ‘compassion’ will change. From now on, when you can feel the heartfelt feeling of compassion with the other, the range of meaning of ‘compassion’ has been extended, and herafter you will feel ‘compassion’ as the tool/weapon of your heart.
This is what I belief that is necessary.
*In Quechua there are several ways to express forms of what we call possession. But the way a Quechua speaker looks at the word ‘possession’ is better expressed by the word ‘connection’. In depth I discuss this point in my Simplified Quechua Grammar. This is the link.