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Thread: what does this quote mean....

  1. #1
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    what does this quote mean....

    I had a discussion with a great master in Japan, and we were talking about the various people who are working to translate the Zen books into English, and he said, “That’s a waste of time. If you really understand Zen, you can use any book. You could use the Bible. You could use Alice in Wonderland. You could use the dictionary, because the sound of the rain needs no translation.


    I have to admit, I do not understand this quote at all. I am a member of a Buddhist parenting group on fb and someone suggested, to me, that it means everything that we read is a reflection of the self.
    The answers are inside you, when you read something, whatever it is, the interpretation and perception of the words is going to be a reflection of you. Just like when you read the bible you have certain feelings that is a reflection of your history with it. Zen is to study yourself to learn who you are. It's the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland that says "Who R U. Lol.. There's my reflection.
    The rain needs no interpretation, the mountain needs no interpretation, words need no interpretation. Zen is you. You are the interpreter. Every experience you have, every thing you read or see or touch or feel is you trying to understand you. You are reflecting onto it and then perceiving it.


    Is this a correct definition of Zen? Or does this quote mean something else?


    Treena

  2. #2
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    this quote is by Allan Watts, btw.

  3. #3
    Hi Emmy,

    You can either look into the mirror in your bathroom,
    or you can use a microscope and study the wings of a fly
    or you can use a telescope and count Saturn's rings.

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Emmy View Post
    “That’s a waste of time. If you really understand Zen, you can use any book. You could use the Bible. You could use Alice in Wonderland. You could use the dictionary, because the sound of the rain needs no translation.
    It could be a statement on our attachment to books. Instead of letting was is continue to be, we can be caught up in looking for the WHY. The sound of the rain is the sound of the rain. That's it. I know I for one am often caught up with the WHY and the WHAT DOES THIS MEAN. I'll be sitting and a thought will pop into my mind. It will be an odd thought and I'll think "wow, why does this thought happen now?" When I should be turning to the blue sky. Perhaps with more books and more teachings and teachers and talks we find ourselves looking to explain things that better be left to just being.

    Perhaps.

    Gassho,
    Joe

  5. #5
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Taking liberty - a pseudo-koan:

    Jundo Roshi asked the apprentice Ippen, "Translate Zen!"

    Ippen replies, "The sound of the rain needs no translation."

    Gassho,
    Edward

  6. #6
    This a quote from taigen Leighton when reviewing the book 'the mind of dogen zenji by cleary'
    Though historically misunderstood at times (continuing even to this day in some Japanese training centers where reading is officially forbidden), the famous Zen dictum "teaching beyond words and letters" was not intended as an anti-intellectual ban on textual study. Instead, it indicates that the study of sutras and of sayings of ancient masters is not a conceptual plaything, but must be thoroughly enacted in prac tice; going beyond words means being able to use them appropriately, without fixation on any particular formulation."

    I think what this means is that practice is paramount.

  7. #7
    Some very insightful folks here. But let me drop a few more words in ...

    We live in a world of words, names, descriptions, stories, divisions, labels, judging, categories, tales of the past, dreams of the future. This is human life, the life of our thoughts, and is also found in all our books and stories.

    Sitting Zazen, one drops away all the words, names, descriptions, stories, divisions, labels, judging, categories ... past and future too. One then encounters something free and flowing, open, whole, shining ... the canvas upon which life is painted, the open page upon which all the stories are written, pure and rich with all possibilities of this world. Something like that (because words fail here).

    Now, what I think the first Teacher may have been referring to is that we should not stop there, but can come to see the same clarity and openness shining through and in all the stories and confusion, the comedy and tragedy, the exciting and the dull, the beautiful and ugly images of our stories of life ... in the sound of each raindrop too. The canvas and the painting are one, the page of fertile possibility and the story are one.

    Something like this.

    One might come to see that the words and stories and judgments and division ... and that which is wholly free and freeing of words and stories and judgments and divisions in life, a Buddha's Smile shining at the heart of all comedy and tragedy ... have never been two, never apart though hard for us to see. Such can be found in and shining through the Bible, a children's book, a computer manual or instructions on a prescription bottle when having a Buddha's Eye to see. It can also be found shining through war stories, stories of painful childhoods, stories of ugliness in this world to those with a Buddha's Eye to see through the greed, anger and delusion.

    Once such is realized, then I would agree with your friend who said that the "the interpretation of the words is going to be a reflection of you." This is so, but in our Zen Way we also must thoroughly realize that there was never a "you" or an "Alice" from the start, and that you are also an "Emmy-Alice" living in a kind of mad wonderland of (more than most of us realize) our-her own creation. You are writing the story of your own life in ways often hard to realize, and you can change the story ... rewrite the story and characters ... in so many ways. Oh, not completely perhaps ... but you have the pen in hand for your own life more than you may know, and how the story goes is up to you. True, you might not be able to change all the events, the days of rain and the days of death, nor how all the other characters will act. However, you can change so much, especially about how you view and interpret the story and scenes. Rainy or passing happy scenes (all the scenes in fact) are not encountered the same way as they might have been before this Practice ... scenes of loss or gain are somehow known as beyond all loss and gain.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe View Post
    ... Instead of letting what is continue to be, we can be caught up in looking for the WHY. The sound of the rain is the sound of the rain. That's it. I know I for one am often caught up with the WHY and the WHAT DOES THIS MEAN.
    Oh yes, an aspect of this Practice is about letting things just be as they are ... a rainy day is just rainy, sunny days just sunny. The breeze on one's cheek is just so.

    But we also need to have thoughts about things, opinions, judgments and a search for reasons in order to live as human beings. We are not algae, who can live just by floating along. Human beings are not stones or trees, content (if feeling even that much) to just stand still forever.

    So, a wonderfully wise aspect of this Practice is knowing to do both of the above at once, as one. (And also, learning how to have opinions and to keep asking questions without being their prisoner either). We can move, yet be still at the same time ... sitting-rolling stones, always growing trees.

    As Taigen noted ...

    sutras and of sayings of ancient masters is not a conceptual plaything, but must be thoroughly enacted in practice

    Yes, this must be brought to life and lived ... not merely pondered.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-12-2013 at 05:05 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Hi Emmy,

    Throw a book into the rain once in a while and listen to how you and the rain together make you and the book sing and talk. Or light a fire with it to get nice and warm in cold winter times.

    Roshi is messing with you a bit I think? It’s a koan like quote to point out any attachments to the “translator you”. It’s just translating old words and translating is not the real you. If you say “Yes master you are right. Its useless” he will say you don’t get it because the translation of teachings is good and very important work. If you say “No what you say is not right” you prove you don’t get it either because it’s just the translation of some words and not the utter and complete unveiling of the secrets of the universe.

    He probably is trying to show that everything teaches Zen, if your mindset is right. What do you want with translating all those words? Putting too much stock in the translation of things already said, is only Talking Zen and the recycling of things and moments already gone. A true student of the Way sees, hears and reeds Zen everywhere in everything in the right here right now. Teachings manifest themselves spontaneously in real life as practice opportunities and not from reading books in search for an answer to everything! When allways buried into the pages of a book, you will miss the rain falling or the wind making you/ the world dance to a music that can’t be heard. Lose the chance to have an intimate conversation over tea with a loved one. Translate books, not Zen itself. Don’t get lost in words. There are so many of them!

    Well, that's my reflection on it anyway

    Gassho

    Enkyo

  9. #9
    Hi.

    Emmy, although it might be nice to have zen books in english it is not needed as such.
    I know of people using the bible, alice in wonderland, and even star wars ( ) when talking about the Dharma, the important thing is not the finger, but what it is pointing to.
    Or as some old fool on Treeleaf always says, "Its all good practice."

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen
    Treeleaf Unsui
    Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Enkyo View Post
    . A true student of the Way sees, hears and reeds Zen everywhere in everything in the right here right now. Teachings manifest themselves spontaneously in real life as practice opportunities and not from reading books in search for an answer to everything! When allways buried into the pages of a book, you will miss the rain falling or the wind making you/ the world dance to a music that can’t be heard. Lose the chance to have an intimate conversation over tea with a loved one. Translate books, not Zen itself. Don’t get lost in words. There are so many of them!

    Well, that's my reflection on it anyway

    Gassho

    Enkyo
    Hi Enkyo,

    This is true, but Western Zen students sometimes have a tendency to run the other way ... and become prisoners of "not in the words".

    In fact, where is it not ... in words or out? When properly seen, the finger and the moon are one, and the moon is just the finger's pointing.

    Dogen and most other Zen Teachers had an intimate relationship with language. We touched upon that in another thread recently.I wrote:

    ---------------

    Words and Buddhist Ideas alone are not barriers! There is a time for all words and categories to drop away. There is a time for the dropping away of words and categories right in and through words and categories.

    Dogen ... the master wordsmith ... held well expressed language to be the very essence of Buddhist Truths. For Dogen, suchness was not a matter of rejecting or embracing silence or speaking (there are right moments for each) ... but of how what is said, the well turned and turning phrase. The right words and Buddhist ideas do not simply describe Truth, but dance Truth itself, are True Dancing. The moons illuminates all things ... words no less ... and words illuminate the moon.

    Properly Illuminated words are not simply 'the finger pointing at the moon which cannot be described in words'. Enlightened words are the Very Moonlight.

    Open any page of Shobogeno, sentence by rich sentence, and one realizes that Dogen did not see words as an obstruction ... but only words of ignorance as obstructing, and Wise Words As Realization Realizing!

    (more here)
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...l=1#post102273
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Hi Jundo,

    Yes, both true. We need the words spoken or written for transmission and recording and then to forget all of them.

    In fact, where is it not ... in words or out? When properly seen, the finger and the moon are one, and the moon is just the finger's pointing.
    It's in the one using but not using the words. Sometimes the moon and sometimes the reflection of the moon. Both in and out.

    Words are sometimes usefull in transmitting and sometimes they are not. Wisdom is using both to practice in all of life.

    Gassho

    Enkyo

  12. #12
    Enkyo,

    Sounds nice and very true, and at the same time...you see it has nothing to do with what you are saying ( again wise and balanced)but where it comes from.
    You could investigate further the two moons of Keizan.
    Investigate until no Enkyo, no moons.
    Neither this nor that.
    And then return.

    Gassho


    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  13. #13
    And don't be in a hurry, this might take years, even decades.

    Gassho


    T.
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  14. #14
    “That’s a waste of time. If you really understand Zen..."
    For myself, that begs the question; "When do you really understand Zen?"
    Once you have crossed a river, you abandon the raft; you certainly don't carry it up the mountain. However, I've met several people who having heard of Zen's "enlightenment outside the scriptures", seem to have developed a contempt for formal study; an arrogant dismissal of the sutras and the accumulated wisdom of the patriarchs passed down to us by 2,500 years of the written word (and teisho, but from where did roshi get that insightful quote?). Such a disdain for study often seems to be accompanied by a dearth of knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, the Six Paramitas, The Noble Eightfold Path, and the Ten Precepts. Come to think of it, many who've read a good deal of Watts don't seem to think much of sitting, either. While I have no interest in debating who is or isn't a "real" Buddhist and prefer to look instead to what I myself have done or left undone, sometimes I find people quite perplexing.
    However, if you do read Dogen or Hakuin, it's clear that they expected their target audience to already be conversant in the Heart Sutra or the Lotus Sutra (et al.); they therefore didn't elaborate on oblique references and if you're not up to speed, some of their deeper meanings and nuances might be lost.
    I'm all for going "past clever words", but I'm still on that journey. When facing a broad swift river in wintertime, I greatly prefer the raft thoughtfully prepared for me by my fellow travelers who have preceded me on The Way, than to swim it alone.
    May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind
    quickly be freed from their illnesses.
    May those frightened cease to be afraid
    and may those bound be free.
    May the powerless find power
    and may people think of befriending one another.

  15. #15
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    It is sort of similar to learning to swim, isn't it

    gassho,
    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Enkyo View Post
    Hi Jundo,

    Yes, both true. We need the words spoken or written for transmission and recording and then to forget all of them.
    And then to remember them again. Both silence and words are encountered in a new way in Enlightenment.

    It is not that words are merely a tool and should be forgotten. Rather, Enlightenment is found to shine right through and as all words. It shines through small human silence too. Every word or scream of terror or silence is Silent and Preaching the Sutras at Once. All is Still even when moving for its life.

    Such is vastly unlike our state prior to Enlightenment, when we may be prisoners of words, silence, noise, ideas, division and the whole catastrophe of life. Now, in Enlightenment, one embodies that the whole catastrophe is Buddha. Now we know the words and ideas, the beautiful and ugly, the whole catastrophe as Buddha.

    Quote Originally Posted by Piobair View Post
    For myself, that begs the question; "When do you really understand Zen?"Once you have crossed a river, you abandon the raft; you certainly don't carry it up the mountain
    Actually, Master Dogen had an unusual view of the raft too. One did not put it down, and the very carrying is Enlightenment itself. This came up on another thread recently ...

    Dogen wrote ...

    The principle of zazen in other schools is to wait for enlightenment. For example, to practice is like crossing over a great ocean on a raft, thinking that having crossed the ocean one should discard the raft. The zazen of Buddha-ancestors is not like this, but is simply Buddha’s practice. We could say that the situation of Buddha’s house is the one in which the essence, practice, and expounding are one and the same.
    (Eihei Koroku, vol. 8:11)

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...l=1#post101485

    Perhaps we might say that the whole trip ... this shore, river, that shore ... is Buddha all along, and the trip keeps tripping.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-12-2013 at 05:04 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Jenell View Post
    Properly illuminated according to whom? Right words according to whom? To what?
    Gassho
    Hi,

    One of those times when I get to say "Just Sit", find out for your "self" ... such is known when known.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  18. #18
    Perhaps.

    But maybe best to study (what is written around here is a good start), then put the study down, turn off the computer and just sit.

    Worst is simply to study and not sit. Sitting and not studying at all can also go off the rails for lack of direction.

    But, at the end of the day, after all that ... when ya know ya know.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jenell View Post
    Properly illuminated according to whom? Right words according to whom? To what?
    Gassho
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi,

    One of those times when I get to say "Just Sit", find out for your "self" ... such is known when known.
    I been 'hit with a stick' before and told to just sit. Felt good. :-)

    Gassho, John


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk 2
    Last edited by Jishin; 06-11-2013 at 06:20 PM.

  20. #20
    If you really understand Zen, you can use any book. You could use the Bible. You could use Alice in Wonderland. You could use the dictionary, because the sound of the rain needs no translation
    That may be true for someone who really understands Zen but I am personally very grateful to all the translators who have made dharma texts available in English.
    I get a lot from sitting but doubt that my sits or life would be so rich without some guiding words.

    Once you 'get' Zen, you can probably see it in any book and no book. Until that point, there is a reason for having a suggested book list.

    Gassho
    Andy

  21. #21
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enkyo View Post
    Hi Emmy,

    Throw a book into the rain once in a while and listen to how you and the rain together make you and the book sing and talk. Or light a fire with it to get nice and warm in cold winter times.

    Roshi is messing with you a bit I think? It’s a koan like quote to point out any attachments to the “translator you”. It’s just translating old words and translating is not the real you. If you say “Yes master you are right. Its useless” he will say you don’t get it because the translation of teachings is good and very important work. If you say “No what you say is not right” you prove you don’t get it either because it’s just the translation of some words and not the utter and complete unveiling of the secrets of the universe.

    He probably is trying to show that everything teaches Zen, if your mindset is right. What do you want with translating all those words? Putting too much stock in the translation of things already said, is only Talking Zen and the recycling of things and moments already gone. A true student of the Way sees, hears and reeds Zen everywhere in everything in the right here right now. Teachings manifest themselves spontaneously in real life as practice opportunities and not from reading books in search for an answer to everything! When allways buried into the pages of a book, you will miss the rain falling or the wind making you/ the world dance to a music that can’t be heard. Lose the chance to have an intimate conversation over tea with a loved one. Translate books, not Zen itself. Don’t get lost in words. There are so many of them!

    Well, that's my reflection on it anyway

    Gassho

    Enkyo
    Lots of good stuff here, thanks everyone. I just wanted to comment on what Enkyo said, because after thinking about this quote for a long time, this is also the same conclusion I came to. I am a bookworm, I usually have 2 or 3 books that I am reading at once. Often to do with Zen Buddhism. I also like to listen to relaxing, Zen music. I am now starting to realize that perhaps putting the books away, turning the computer off, and living more in my life, this very present moment, can help my practice a lot. I watched Star Wars with my son the other day (I dislike Star Wars very much) but in that moment, I just sat there, no judgements, no labels, just sat and watched the show. Or I weed my garden, or make food for my children, or whatever, I'm beginning to see it all as Zen practice, not just the times that I am reading about zen, or even doing zazen meditation. For me, this is life-changing. Zen is not learned so much through intellect, as in doing away with the "junk" in my mind and just living, simply, in the moment.

    Anyway, could say more, but on that note, my kids are hungry and I need to turn the computer off to live in the now.

    Gassho,
    Treena

  22. #22
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Thank you to all here who have used the stick on me.
    迎 Geika

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Emmy View Post
    Lots of good stuff here, thanks everyone. I just wanted to comment on what Enkyo said, because after thinking about this quote for a long time, this is also the same conclusion I came to. I am a bookworm, I usually have 2 or 3 books that I am reading at once. Often to do with Zen Buddhism. I also like to listen to relaxing, Zen music. I am now starting to realize that perhaps putting the books away, turning the computer off, and living more in my life, this very present moment, can help my practice a lot. I watched Star Wars with my son the other day (I dislike Star Wars very much) but in that moment, I just sat there, no judgements, no labels, just sat and watched the show. Or I weed my garden, or make food for my children, or whatever, I'm beginning to see it all as Zen practice, not just the times that I am reading about zen, or even doing zazen meditation. For me, this is life-changing. Zen is not learned so much through intellect, as in doing away with the "junk" in my mind and just living, simply, in the moment.

    Anyway, could say more, but on that note, my kids are hungry and I need to turn the computer off to live in the now.
    Lovely! Yes! We are not prisoners of books, read in moderation for guidance and direction. Then, head to the cushion and into all of life. Weeding and hungry kids are where the Dharma rubber meets the road. Jedi Knights did not sit around just reading books about "the Force" and how to be a Jedi Knight.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-12-2013 at 03:36 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Jedi Knights did not sit around just reading books about "the Force" and how to be a Jedi Knight.
    Brilliant Jundo!

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Shingen View Post
    Brilliant Jundo!

    Gassho
    Shingen
    No, I just stole that from Fugen.




    MTFBWY, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    No, I just stole that from Fugen.




    MTFBWY, Jundo
    *In a dark breathy voice* "Jundo, you are my Dharma brother"!

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

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