Learning Cantonese: On Meditation

The Hong Kong Buddhist monk 常霖法師 Master Changlin (or Sèuhng4 Làhm4 in Cantonese) has made numerous videos in Cantonese, many of them in an interview format. He trained as a designer before he found Zen, and this shows in the quality of his productions. I have chosen this one partly for its colloquial unscripted tone, partly for its brevity, and partly because it uses a verb that I had never heard before, 寒背 hòhn4 bui3. There is a definition of it in 《香港粵語大詞典》, where it is explained as 輕微的駝背 = to be slightly hunchbacked; to hunch one’s back slightly. There is also an instance of another (rare) verb in 𩓥高頭 ngohk6 gōu1 tàuh4 = to lift up one’s head.

You can view the video here. Since it is on YouTube, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

You might also like to make use the Ekho Text to Speech Converter if you have trouble matching any part of the transcribed Chinese text to the spoken version. Just make sure you select “Cantonese” under the language menu before you paste cut and text into the relevant box.


千人禪修 | 安心 ● 心安 Zen Practice for All: Pacify the Mind & the Mind Will Be Peaceful

常霖法師:啊,靜坐呢,就唔係一定要禪堂裏邊 | 喺日常生活裏邊 | 應該隨時隨地都可以做得到 | 譬如話喺我而家一張嘅梳化 | 噉,呃,可以盤腿坐 | 亦都可以放坐 | 重點呢,| 就係話身體要首先要平衡同埋放鬆 | 呃,坐喺度嘅時候要平衡嘅關係呢 | 所以我哋要坐得直 | 坐得直呢,但係就唔係話等於要好用力樣撐住自己,唔係嘅 | 呃,就咁樣輕輕鬆鬆坐直就 *a 得喇 | 有陣時,有人係習慣咗佢有少少寒背咁啦 | 其實 *kei’a 咁樣呢,就會令到你個頸呀、呃腰呀,啲地方呢,都會有個壓力喺度嘅 | 噉所以呢,點樣先至叫做直呢?| 噉其實有一個方法 | 就係話我哋兩隻*a 手放喺個膝頭嗰度 | 然後個身【1:00】輕輕向前 | 跟住慢慢坐返起

● 禪堂 sìhm4 tòhng4 = (?) Zen meditation hall | + 隨時隨地 chèuih4 sìh4 chèuih4 deih6 = at any time, in any place | + 盤腿坐 pùhn4 téui2 chóh5 = to sit cross-legged | + 撐住自己 chāang1 jyuh6 jih6 géi2 = (?) to prop oneself up | + 寒背 hòhn4 bui3 = (?) to hunch the back [slightly]

Note: There is a tone change in 梳化: sō1 fáa3*2

Master Seung Lam: Ah, meditation, is not [something that is] necessarily [done] in a meditation hall. In daily life, [Caption: At any time and in any place] one should be able to do it at any time and in any place. For example, on such a sofa [as this], we can cross out legs or put them flat on the floor [放腳坐]. The important thing [Caption: 常霖法師Master Changlin] is that the body must be first of all balanced [平衡] and relaxed [Caption: Balanced & Relaxed] . When sitting, [because] of the need for balance [要平衡], we have to sit up straight [Caption: Sit up Straight without Strain]. Sitting up straight, however, does not mean [唔係話等於] propping yourself up with a great deal of effort, no.  Sit up straight in a relaxed, easy manner [輕輕鬆鬆] and that will do the trick [就得㗎喇]. Sometimes, there are people who have got into the habit of hunching their backs a little. Actually, [doing it] this way puts pressure on places such as your neck and your lower back [腰]. So, what does it take for it to be called “straight”? Well, actually there is a technique: we place our two hands on our knees, then we incline ourselves [個身輕輕向前] [Caption: Push the Body Forward then Sit up Straight] forward a little, then we sit up again.

噉你去到一個位嘅時候, 你一放鬆呢,其實就係最平衡嘅位置嚟㗎喇 | 噉啊要注意一樣就係個頭呢 | 感覺上你嗰條頸好似掂到衣領咁 | 嗱,好多人呢,就係話,你,感覺掂衣領,你就會𩓥高頭㗎喇喎 | 噉又唔平衡喇 | 所以呢,我哋係掂到衣領,但然後個下巴收返 | 咁呃啱啱好喇 | 跟住落呢,我哋個眼呢 | 就係話正前下方四十五度 | 噉你可以瞌埋 | 亦都可以微微張開都得 | 噉至於對手呢 | 就係一般情況你就咁樣放喺 | 嗰個膝頭嗰度 | 呃或者大腿其實 *kei’a 都 OK 嘅 | 噉啊如果係盤膝打坐嘅話呢 | 就最好將兩隻 *a手係放喺腹部嘅前邊 | 噉我哋就可以開始㗎喇

 ● 衣領 yī1 léhng5 = a collar (on an item of clothing) | + 𩓥高頭 ngohk6 gōu1 tàuh4 = to lift up one’s head | + 瞌埋眼 or 䁯埋眼 hāp1 màih4 ngáahn5 = to close the eyes | + 微微張開 = to open slightly | + 腹部 fūk1 bouh6 = midriff; abdomen

Note: In the case of the verb 打坐 = “to meditate”, 坐 is pronounced joh6 rather than the usual chóh5.

When you reach a spot and relax straight away, then this is the most balanced position. One thing to pay attention to is the head. It should feel [感覺上] [Caption: The Neck Touches Lightly against the Collar] as if your neck is pressing against [掂到] your collar. Now, many people think this means [就係話,你,感覺掂衣領] lifting your head up high, but this is not balanced. And so, we keep [our necks] in contact with the collar, but then we draw our chin back in [個下巴收返]. Then everything is just right. Next of all, on the subject of our eyes, [Caption: Eyes Look down Slightly] we look straight ahead and down at an angle of 45 degrees. You can close them or you can keep them slightly open if you want. As for your hands, in most situations you place them [放] like this, there on the knee. Or it’s OK actually to put them on the thighs, too. If you meditate with your legs crossed, then it’s best to put your hands in front of you lower belly. Now we can make a start.

首先呢,開始嘅時候 | 你要感受一下自己嘅身體 【2:00】| 有冇係完全放鬆呢 | 如果你係覺得,咦,嗰啲頸呀、膊頭呀,呢啲位係比較緊嘅話 | 其實你係可以用力縮起 | 再放返 | 樣你就會覺得係成個人,啊,鬆咗喇咁 | 噉於是呢,我哋就開始 | 靜靜哋 | 注意自己嘅呼吸喇

● 感受 gám2 sauh6 = 1. to be affected by 2. to experience; to feel | + 膊頭 bok3 tàuh4 = shoulder | + 縮起 sūk1 héi2 = perhaps “to hunch” or “to lift by drawing in”; the usual meaning of 縮 is “to contract; to shrink” | + 靜靜哋 jihng6 jíng6*2 déi6*2 = quietly

First of all, when starting, you must experience your own body for a moment or two. Is it completely relaxed? If you think [to yourself], Huh? There’s quite a bit of tightness [緊] in places like my neck, in my shoulders, then you use a bit of effort and lift your shoulders, then put them back [down]. That way you will feel that the whole of you is relaxed. And then, we make a start, quietly observing our own breath [Caption: Observe the Breath].

嗱,喺個過程裏邊呢 |我建議大家呢,就係 *jai 用鼻嚟呼吸 | 因爲如果用口呼吸嘅話 | 好容易就會口乾呀,就會唔舒服 | 噉所以呢,用鼻呼吸嘅意思呢,就係話 | 感受一下個空氣由個鼻孔入到去 | 落到肺部,再落到腹部 | 然後再呼返出嚟 | 嗱,喺個過程裏邊呢,我哋係自然哋做嘅 | 係唔需要話好刻意哋 | 吸深啲呀、吸長啲時間呀咁 | 係唔需要嘅 【3:00】| 我哋只係好自然哋吸 | 吸到落腹部再呼返出嚟 | 依一種呢,喺中國人嚟講呢,就叫做丹田呼吸 | 噉啊所以喺個過程裏邊呢,我哋只係注意自己嘅呼吸嘅啫 | 但係 *dai 當然好多時我哋會好多念頭走出嚟 | 噉啊念頭出嚟嘅時候呢,你千祈唔好話,啊,唔准諗,唔好諗咁 | 因爲呢,當你一呢啲壓力個念頭嘅時候,個念頭就會干擾你好多 | 我哋只要做嘅只不過係話,我哋只係一路注意自己嘅呼吸 | 但係呢,有念頭出嚟我哋唔理佢 | 旁邊有啲雜音我哋唔好理佢 | 我哋只係返返去同一個動作 | 就係話一路感受自己嘅呼吸嘅啫 | 嗱,呢一種呢,個目的呢,其實就係話,要提升我哋嘅覺察能力 | 噉所以呢,又唔好瞌眼瞓 | 啊,依一樣嘢,如果大家係持續咁樣練習【4:00】呢,係對大家一定會有幫助嘅 | 噉我哋而家一齊試 | 開始啦喎

● 鼻孔 beih6 húng2 = nostril | + 刻意 = hāk1 yi3 = usually “painstaking”; the implication is that a lot of effort is exerted | + 丹田 dāan1 tìhn4 = the pubic region; a specialist term used in tai chi & chi gung, often written as dan tian | + 走出嚟 = jáu2 chēut1 làih4 = to come out; to emerge | + 雜音 jaahp6 yām1 = noise | + 阻止 jó2 jí2 = to prevent; to stop; to hold back | + 干擾 gōn1 yíu2 = to disturb; to interfere; to obstruct | + 覺察力 gok3 chaat3 lihk6 = (?) awareness; perceptiveness | + 瞌眼瞓 hāp1 ngáahn5 fan3 = to doze off

Note: 1. The frequent use of 係 haih6 in this video in places where there is already a main verb is really conspicuous:

噉啊如果係盤膝打坐嘅話呢 | 就最好將兩隻手係放喺腹部嘅前邊

What strikes me is that 係 tends to be used in places where either a kind of general statement is being made (“some people have the habit of hunching their backs a bit”) or it is used in hypothetical situations, especially with 如果if-clauses. In both cases, the implied verb-tense does not really express present time, and there is certainly no hint of on-going action. So perhaps 係 haih6 (possibly under the influence of English in Hong Kong) can be used to mark this kind of timeless present, as a kind of counterpart to 緊 -gán2 for present actions in the process of occurring. That said, the use of 係 together with 嘅 may also be done to indicate special emphasis: 就唔係一定要喺禪堂裏邊嘅 = meditation is not necessarily done in a meditation hall (that is, it may be done in other places as well). 2. Something interesting is going on with the various uses of 落到 and 到落 in this passage. In Cantonese, both 到 dou3 and 落 lohk6, apart from being verbs in their own right, are used to connect a verb to its final location, with 落 having the more specialized meaning of downward movement. In phrases such as 落到肺部, 落 serves as the main verb “to fall”, while 到 dou3 adds the connection to the location 肺部 = lungs. However, in 吸到落腹部, 吸 kap1 is the main verb (to breathe in), while both 到 dou3 and 落 lohk6 are used to introduce the location. There is a similar example in Unit 3 of the textbook About Hong Kong: 半山區有自動電梯駁到落中環,日曬雨淋都唔怕 = “Escalators connect Mid-Levels to Central and people don’t need to worry about too much sunshine or getting caught in the rain”. Perhaps 到落 conveys both (extended) connection and downward motion (?).

In the process [Caption: Breathe through Your Nose], I suggest that everyone breathe through their nose, because if you breathe through your mouth, it will easily become dry and uncomfortable. And so for that reason, by breathing through one’s nose I mean fear the air entering through your nostrils, falling to the lungs, then again to the lower belly, then [flowing] back out. In the process, we do things naturally, [Caption: Natural Breathing] we don’t push ourselves [刻意] to breathe more deeply or for a longer amount of time, no that’s unnecessary. All we have to do is breathe in quite naturally, breathing in [right] down to the lower abdomen, then out again. To the Chinese, this way is called “dan tian breathing” [Caption: Dan Tian Breathing]. And so, in the process, the only thing we have to do is observe our own breathing. However, of course, much of the time, many mental events [念頭] emerge [走出嚟] in our [minds]. When such mental events occur, whatever you do, don’t say [to yourself]: Thinking isn’t allowed. I mustn’t think! [Caption: Do Not Try and Stop Mental Events]. Because as soon as you put pressure on the mental event, it will really disturb you. All we need to do is just observe the breath the whole time [一路], nothing more. But if something crops up in the mind [有念頭出嚟], we pay no attention to it. If there is noise somewhere nearby [旁邊], don’t pay any attention to it. We just do the same movement over and over, that is, we just experience our own breathing. Now by this means, what it really boils down to in fact [其實就係話], is wanting to raise [要提升] our perceptiveness. And so, don’t doze off. If you can persevere in your practice of this [Caption: Sustained Practising], it will definitely be of help to you. Let’s have a try now, everyone together. Let’s make a start.

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