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  • Writer's pictureSabchu Rinpoché

Etymology Class #3: Blessing

This word is ubiquitously (sometimes mysteriously) used in both conversation and literature. Typically there are physical gestures attributed to giving and receiving blessing in the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, such as touching heads with the lama, placing a hand on someone’s head, and many other spiritual conventions. We will not talk about the conventions. Let’s talk about the word itself.

How is 'blessing' defined etymologically?

The word བྱིན་རླབས། (jin lab) 'blessing' is composed of two words: བྱིན་ and རླབས་.

བྱིན་ is synonymous with: strength, power, force, capacity or capability.

རླབས་ is the action of transforming or effectively creating positive change (inner change, usually). It can also mean the resultant form: the transformation, the positive change itself.

Here are some of the synthesized meanings of the Tibetan word:

1. The force which brings about positive changes from within.

2. The power that causes positive, inner transformation.

3. That which gives rise to the innate capabilities to cause effective change in oneself.

Instead of the typical idea of some outside “force” coming from an external source/person, touching someone inside, the closer meaning of the word 'blessing', by this definition, is that 'blessing' is that “force” which emerges from inside of oneself in the form of positive change.

Perhaps, an external source such as place/object/person could be a catalyst, a spark, or a “kick-starter” if you will. Perhaps, one’s own trust toward the source could contribute toward the occurrence of jin lab. Nonetheless, the ultimate attribution is that blessing is the cause of inner, positive changes.

In many Kagyu literatures, the 1000-years-old lineage is regarded as “the lineage of blessing,” or “the path of blessing.” In other words, the lineage of individuals, one after another, one causing “spark” or བྱིན་ in (not on) another, and hence subsequently, one after another, all becoming truly capable, the ultimate positive change itself (རླབས).

Perhaps, this could be the reason why Milarepa says to Gampopa when they are parting ways: will discover the ultimate confidence within yourself at the end, at which point in time, you will see me genuinely as an awakened being.

From this, we can infer the proportional correlation between the in-progress, positive change (within

oneself) and the ability to perceive the innate purity of all phenomena (including the perception of the teacher). So, to receive THIS TYPE of catalyst, the so-called 'blessing', both the teacher and student

need to meet ALL criteria. For now, I hope this helped to understand the very extensively used word, 'blessing'.


  • རླབས་ – Can all head-touching actions spark change?

  • བྱིན་ – Can everyone give/receive blessing (this type) to/from everyone?

These are the guiding questions to deepen the knowledge of blessing.

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