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Thread: Red Pine?

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Red Pine?

    What are people's opinions on Red Pine and his translations/books? I recently got his book on the Heart sutra and, looking through it, I am not so sure this was really what I wanted to buy, what I expected. I'll read it anyway, though.

  2. #2

    Re: Red Pine?

    I thought the history he covers is interesting. I know this doesn't help, but I don't know if I liked or disliked it yet. This book is so deep that I don't really understand everything that it's saying.

    That's how I find a lot of Buddhist books or Zen books, I read them, I don't have a clue on some stuff, I come back and then I read again, and sometimes I understand more.

    I have to say, however, that it is very thorough.

  3. #3

    Re: Red Pine?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    What are people's opinions on Red Pine and his translations/books? I recently got his book on the Heart sutra and, looking through it, I am not so sure this was really what I wanted to buy, what I expected. I'll read it anyway, though.
    In what way aren't you satisfied with the book? What were you expecting?

    I like Red Pine, but I dislike his preference for translating Sanskrit/Chinese names into English. It's quite irritating to read about young monk Brilliant dharma vehicle, and his brother Sharp gleaming dharma jewel. Especially when other translators keep the original names. It makes comparisons much harder.

  4. #4

    Re: Red Pine?

    Hi Alan,

    I have Red Pine's book on the Heart Sutra. At the time I was trying to make some sense of all the negation in the sutra because it seemed to be negating all the basic Buddhist principals (12 links, 5 skandhas etc...) I found that the book helped by providing the historical context.

    I haven't read any other Red Pine books.

    gassho,

    JohnH

  5. #5

    Re: Red Pine?

    Quote Originally Posted by anista

    In what way aren't you satisfied with the book? What were you expecting?

    I second anista.

    Personally, I have three of his translations. I am not a scholar so I take his writings as is. His historical explanations read pretty good to me.

  6. #6

    Re: Red Pine?

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    Quote Originally Posted by anista

    In what way aren't you satisfied with the book? What were you expecting?

    I second anista.

    Personally, I have three of his translations. I am not a scholar so I take his writings as is. His historical explanations read pretty good to me.
    I have mixed feelings about Red Pine. The scholarship is often very useful and detailed ... but selective. He tends to overlook facts that he doesn't like. The translations are often very personal too, and often awkward and phrased in idiosyncratic ways.

    So, take him as helpful .. but with a grain of salt as not the last word. (Same with Thomas Cleary, who is a lovlier writer, but has even been known to miss whole sections from his translations which do not fit what he wants to say).

    Same with the Nishijima-Cross version of the Shobogenzo, which is masterful (and highly respected by scholars as the best existing complete translation mixing readability with accuracy in translation) ... but has some idiosyncratic ways of desscribing and expressing things (especially in its footnotes) due to some very personal interpretations of Dogen that my teacher developed for himself later in life.

    I usually recommend reading two or three translations of any important text, and trying to "triangulate" perhaps the "original meaning". On other other hand, many modern scholars will point us to the truth that "original meaning" is such a fluid, ambiguous, "even the writer might not know what he is saying fully" concept ... and "reading" is always a dance of the author and the reader ... that it may be silly to do so. Much like trying to find the "real historical Jesus or Buddha" when, more important, may be the "Jesuses and Buddhas" as seen over the centuries, through countless pairs of eyes ... when maybe even "Jesus and Buddha", when alive, did not fully understand who "Jesus and Buddha" were.

    I am reading a lovely book now which basically deconstructs another famous Zen book (John Blofield's translation of "The Zen Teaching of Huang Po" http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Teaching-Huan ... 977&sr=8-1 ) in the manner I describe ... not "light reading" but worth it.

    As "philosophical meditations" on the Zen of Huang Po, Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism by Dale S. Wright is an impressive work. Philosophers will appreciate it, for it well shows how far Zen studies in America have moved ahead since the days of D. T. Suzuki and Alan Watts. Just as Bernard Faure has deconstructed "[D.T.] Suzuki Zen," Dale S. Wright has here de-romanticized John Blofeld's 1959 book on Huang Po, the third "house" in the Hung-chou lineage of Ma-tsu Tao-I, being the successor to Pai-chang and master to Lin-chi.
    http://www.amazon.com/Philosophical-Med ... 0521789842

    BOTTOM LINE: Take any translation or text with a grain of salt, but don't throw out the baby with the bath water. (mixing metaphors) Find the meaning for you on the cushion, sitting Zazen. Find the real Heart Sutra and Huang Po and Buddha and Jesus there.

  7. #7

    Re: Red Pine?

    Hi.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    I usually recommend reading two or three translations of any important text, and trying to "triangulate" perhaps the "original meaning". On other other hand, many modern scholars will point us to the truth that "original meaning" is such a fluid, ambiguous, "even the writer might not know what he is saying fully" concept ... and "reading" is always a dance of the author and the reader ... that it may be silly to do so. Much like trying to find the "real historical Jesus or Buddha" when, more important, may be the "Jesuses and Buddhas" as seen over the centuries, through countless pairs of eyes ... when maybe even "Jesus and Buddha", when alive, did not fully understand who "Jesus and Buddha" were.

    BOTTOM LINE: Take any translation or text with a grain of salt, but don't throw out the baby with the bath water. (mixing metaphors) Find the meaning for you on the cushion, sitting Zazen. Find the real Heart Sutra and Huang Po and Buddha and Jesus there.
    As somewhat of a book reader myself, i kind of want to emphasize a few things.
    I like to have more than one translation of a text if available.
    Just to , as Jundo says, "triangulate" the text.

    Don't believe that the text the writer has written is always the authentic, real meaning or whole/comoplete text.
    Writer's always put a little bit of themselves in the text.

    And it's up to you, the reader to find your meaning behind the text.

    And go out find the meaining in your life, your zazen, in the sitting on the cushion (not three by the way :roll: ).

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  8. #8

    Re: Red Pine?

    Hi Alan,

    personally speaking, I love Red Pine's book on the Heart Sutra to bits. Whilst we're at it,the Dalai Lama's book (and usually I am very critical of a lot of his feel-good publications)
    "Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama's Heart of Wisdom Teachings" is quite wonderful IMHO. Ken McLeod's "Arrow to the Heart" is completely different, but also great.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  9. #9
    disastermouse
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    Re: Red Pine?

    This isn't particular to Red Pine, but I waver between reading too much and reading too little.

    I think some of the great Mahayana texts need to be read again and again. As others have pointed out, sustained practice often brings sutras alive in ways they might not have appeared on a first read. Heck, even parts of the Christian scriptures have new meanings as you age or if you have a meditation practice. How much more so with Zen texts?

    IMHO.

  10. #10
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Red Pine?

    It's not that I am dissatisfied with the book. I haven't read it yet, so my satisfaction with it is yet to be determined. It's not what I expected because I was a little careless and unmindful when buying it. I had heard somewhere, can't remember where, about a new translation of the Heart sutra that had quotes from all sorts of famous non-buddhists and explained it all in a fresh, contemporary way, or something like that. So I went on Amazon a while back and started looking and found Red Pine. The name was familiar, it was a new translation, said it was a unique way of looking at the sutra, so I bought it. Then it arrived and I flipped through it and saw dense prose, no quotes from famous people, and what appeared to be a real academic and historical approach. Also, shortly after buying it, maybe even before it was delivered, someone here mentioned that Red Pine conjectured that Avaloketisvara was Shakyamuni's mom. Oops and uh-oh :? That kindo of analysis is not what I was looking for. It got me wondering, does Red Pine always do stuff like this? So I posted the question in a more general way. As an aside, regardless of his approach or translation skills, I think the name Red Pine is just about the coolest name ever :!:

    I think I have finally figured out that the book I wanted was Mcleod's Arrow to the Heart, and it is on order. I already have Glassman's Infinite Circle, which is about the Heart sutra, so my triangulation is almost complete.

    I don't really like Cleary's translations very much at all. It's just a personal preference that I notice when I read his version of something and then another person's I always seem to prefer the other person's.

  11. #11

    Re: Red Pine?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    I think I have finally figured out that the book I wanted was Mcleod's Arrow to the Heart, and it is on order. I already have Glassman's Infinite Circle, which is about the Heart sutra, so my triangulation is almost complete.

    I don't really like Cleary's translations very much at all. It's just a personal preference that I notice when I read his version of something and then another person's I always seem to prefer the other person's.
    Hi.

    I really like the arrow to heart-book.

    Another favourite of mine is Hakuins commentary on the heart sutra...
    http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Words-Heart-H ... 565&sr=1-5

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  12. #12

    Re: Red Pine?

    Ok, you guys have to stop it with all the book recommendations, I tend to read Zen or Buddhist texts on my offtime, and my Amazon cart is going to reach its limit, or I'm going to end up going into debt :lol:

  13. #13

    Re: Red Pine?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Also, shortly after buying it, maybe even before it was delivered, someone here mentioned that Red Pine conjectured that Avaloketisvara was Shakyamuni's mom. Oops and uh-oh :? That kindo of analysis is not what I was looking for.
    To be fair to Red Pine, I don't think means literally Buddha's momma. But. He does try to explain where or how this major figure in Mahayana Buddhism came to be and what is her/his role in the Heart Sutra. At least in the version he translates, he points out the obvious, this is a unique sutra in which Buddha does NOT speak, but this figure, Avaloketisvar, does. So. Who is s/he? Red Pine gives a succinct explanation w/ the context of Mahayana framework.

  14. #14

    Re: Red Pine?

    Hello everyone,

    I have only read one of Red Pine's books, The Diamond Sutra translation, but I thought it was really good. He quotes from other translations, and sources, so I thought it was very good. I recommend it to anyone interested in the sutra, but I agree with most of the posts here. Reading multiple translations will give you a better idea about what the original text meant.

    Gassho,

    Adam

  15. #15
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Red Pine?

    Hello everyone

    I have read (several times) Red Pines The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma. I am not able to make any comparisons as there aren't any and I can't read Chinese but there are such strong resonances in the text, between Bodhidharma, Hongzhi (by Taigen Dan Leighton, which I am reading now) and Dogen, that I believe Red Pine has caught the essence of the man (Bodhidharma) and his power (of understanding of the Way) that you could feel the lineage of his teachings.....or maybe it is because his teachings are Honghzi's and Dogen's teachings as well as Gautama Buddha's.

    A really challenging and inspiring book. My hat is off for Red Pine.

    Gassho Nigel

  16. #16

    Re: Red Pine?

    We read as a dance with the text ... not getting lost in the book "how to dance" ...



    ... or in the mechanics of the dance steps on the floor ...



    .. .but just dancing ... reader, author, the movement and meaning ... all swept up in a dance.



    Have a good dance with Red Pine, the Diamond Sutra, Bodhidharma, etc. etc. . 8)

  17. #17
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Red Pine?

    Just a quick follow up to Jundo's dancing.
    1. it's a good idea to dance with more than one translator so that you get the full "dance" experience; however, this inevitably leads to...
    2. due to personal preferences, some dance partners will work with you better than others, and that's okay.

  18. #18
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Red Pine?

    I finished Red Pine's translation of the Heart Sutra. I have also now read Ken McLeod's commentary and Bernie Glassman's Infinite Circle that includes his views on it (this book also includes commentary on the Sandokai). So here are my brief "-al" reviews:
    Red Pine - historical, logical, philosophical
    Ken McLeod - personal, explorational, existential and poetical
    Bernie Glassman - practical (in the sense of being very action oriented)

  19. #19

    Re: Red Pine?

    I'm not fond of Red Pine's translations in regards to accuracy. I think he tends to take too many liberties. With that said, when you ask in a forum "Which is your favorite translation of the Tao Teh Ching?" Red Pine's name always comes up. He does have a way of writing that touches people on a certain level. Whether it's valid or not, is up to debate.

    Aaron

  20. #20

    Re: Red Pine?

    I heard a close friend of Red pine once speak about the construction of chinese zen temples.In the middle chamber are two paths one of practice samantabadrah and one of knowledge majushri.It seemed that they practiced a very knowledge oriented zen.I feel red pine is very important in his spreading of chan.Many japanese zen practioners know nothing of its chinese roots.Red pine also seems to include a lot of personal feeling in his translations.My I have only read his poetry anathologies and zen baggage but from what i see he is definitely some one worth looking into as a frame of reference.

  21. #21

    Re: Red Pine?

    Just stumbled over this thread. My favorite book ever (and I read many) is Zen teaching of Bodhidharma, translated by Red Pine. For me its on the point. Sometimes it took me hours to read a single page, because sentence after sentence things become clearer and I needed to stop for a while because its just so breathtaking when another layer of fog disappears. I cannot say anything about accuracy of translation (and its not even clear if the original chinese text is from Bodhidharma), but no other book was so inspiring and touched and still touches me so often and in depth.
    _()_
    Peter

  22. #22
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Red Pine?

    I did enjoy reading him, and his translation of the heart sutra does read better, smoother, than other versions, and he does put some personality into his writing also. But from what I hear that may also detract from the original message. I'd read more of him, maybe the Bodhidharma book mentioned above.

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