The new issue of Tricycle Magazine is out, and I am working my way through it now. There is an article on pages 20 and 21 entitled "10 Misconceptions About Buddhism" that has left me baffled, at least in part. The article is written by Robert E. Buswell and Donald S. Lopez, both of whom appear to be rather esteemed Buddhist academics (I do not know anything about their practice status, however). What baffles me is "misconception" number 8. I shall provide both the alleged misconception and the responses of the authors:
8. The four noble truths are noble.
"The famous phrase "four noble truths" is a mistranslation. The term "noble" in Sanskrit is aryan, a perfectly good word meaning "noble" or "superior" that was ruined by the Nazis. Aryan is a technical term in Buddhism, referring to someone who has had direct experience of the truth and will never again be reborn as an animal, ghost or hell-being. The four truths of suffering, origin, cessation and path are true for such enlightened beings. They are not true for us; we don't understand that life is suffering. So the term means the four truths for the [spiritually] noble."
Note: I have added the underlining and boldface type to the last two sentences, because this is the portion of the response i find baffling.
I understand that in Zen we do not really talk much about reincarnation, ghosts or hell-beings. I also understand that Dogen said that sitting zazen in and of itself is enlightenment.
My question is, is the sitting zazen/enlightenment of Dogen something that makes a Zen practitioner "spiritually noble?" Or, does this issue even matter to us in Zen practice? In "Genjo Koan, Dogen says that those who have great realization of delusion are Buddhas. Could this be what the authors mean when the talk about us not truly understanding that life is suffering. (i.e., until we have realization of our delusions, we are not spiritually noble).