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Proverbs and sayings from Tibet

Updated on December 18, 2016

The Tibetans spice their daily conversations with proverbs . Tibetan proverbs usually are cast in the form of poetry with rhyme found and probably accidental in those few instances. Tibetan poetry have only balance and rhythm.

I have read a book of proverbs translated in English by Marion H. Duncan, the author of Love Songs and Proverbs of Tibet. Marion Duncan have lived in Tibet for 13 years with the Tibetans in their homes, tent and temple, he have spent much of his working hours to the study of Tibet, its language and its people and its culture and customs. He translated their words of wisdom to share with the rest of the world.

On Appearances

  • Both flowers and jewelry are lovely if just a few. (One should be modest and not wear all of one’s finery at once nor all of the time.)

On Business and Affairs

  • Affairs cannot be handled with a two-pointed mind. Sewing cannot be done with a two pointed needle.
  • Double – minded men cannot handle affairs. With many tasks nothing is ever finished. (Too many irons in the fire)

On Boasting

  • A braggart has no courage, muddy water has no depth.
  • If the hand can not catch the flea.Let not the mouth slay the tiger.
  • Though one’s tongue can talk to other persons.To see oneself there must be a mirror. (One ought not to boast but look at oneself in a mirror.)
  • If one eat much honey, it makes the liver sick.If one talk much, the words are like blowing a goat’s horn.
  • Kill five men, wound ten and capture twenty.

On Comparison

  •  Wood is light on water. And stones seem light on wood.
  • Clouds are the mistress of the sky. Flesh is the softness of the bones.

On Example

  • When the blind escort the blind, both fall into the river.
  • Although the lamp is in his hand, the blind man cannot see his way.

On Evil

  • The evil mouth of men, breaks the rod of iron. (Gossip will kill the best reputation.)
  • Snake fears man. Man fears snake. (Two evil fear each other when they meet).
  • When fire burns over the great mountain, poison is cast in the great sea. (Evil comes to those who spread evil.)

On Food

  •  In the beginning eat your meal, afterwards cut down the fir tree. (Eat first to have strength for the work).

On Glory

  • Nothing more brilliant than sun and moon, nothing more numerous than the stars.

On Friends and Enemies

  • As to friends we like the old; As to clothes we like the new.
  • Brothers may become as enemies. Yet their family ties are golden.
  • The magpie goes east, the raven goes west.
  • A neighbor is one hundred times better, than a relative a long distance off.

On Harmony in Life and Nature

  •   Teeth come in at eight months,crawling is at nine months. (Everything must be in natural order.)
  •   A hoe digs, a broom sweeps. (Everything has its proper use)

On Heaven and Hell

  •  When a man bows, heaven forgives.

On Hypocrisy

  • Like fine satin on the outside, like barley bag on the inside.
  • Empty in the heart, lovely in the mouth.
  • One mouth, two tongues. (Two-faced)
  • After calling a dog, one ought not to beat him.

On Learning

  •  It is easy to do work in a small house, It is easy to deceive those of little mind.

On Master and Servants

  •  The goat sends the kid, the kid sends its tail. (Everyone wants to boss someone else; and each tries to pass the job on down to one of lower rank.)

On Poverty

  • Long arms, short sleeves.(A person has great ambition but is poverty stricken.)

On Quarrelling

  •   When the yak plows, the ox’s neck bends. (Out of sympathy; when two men quarrel others join in)

On Rulers

  • An unclean kingdom is filthier than a great swamp.
  • When a righteous king has crooked ministers. He falls under the rule of his ministers.

On Sincerity

  • If water is clear. The fish can be seen. (We will know in time the truth or falsity of talk.)


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    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 3 years ago from Malaysia

      A good collection of quotes that are worth bookmarking. I like their quote on hypocrisy : "One mouth, two tongues"

    • profile image

      Zr 5 years ago

      Good job

    • Eclairman profile image

      Eclairman 6 years ago

      Beautiful proverbs ^^ I like

    • Kamalesh050 profile image

      Kamalesh050 6 years ago from Sahaganj, Dist. Hooghly, West Bengal, India

      Very nice hub and interesting. Well done.

      Best Wishes.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Great hub - Love these aphorisms....

    • chspublish profile image

      chspublish 7 years ago from Ireland

      Great to have these quotes. Well done.

    • Randy Behavior profile image

      Randy Behavior 7 years ago from Near the Ocean

      I love quotes and old proverbs, thanks!

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 7 years ago

      An excellent collection of sayings. up and useful.