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Thread: Shobogenzo Translations

  1. #1

    Shobogenzo Translations

    Hi All,

    So I have been looking at expanding my library a bit and was thinking about picking up a hard-copy of Dogen's Shobogenzo. I had planned on getting the translation from Nishijima-Cross. However I had came across Chodo Cross' comments on Amazon that made me rethink it:

    Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 3 [Paperback]

    I know that this was on the Treeleaf reading list and so thought maybe I'd ask for any experience with this translation. I had noticed also that there will be a translation from Tanahashi coming out in July and while I'm not sure if it is more accurate or "better" translation, I was somewhat taken back from the Chodo Cross' comments...

    Thanks for your perspectives/opinions.

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  2. #2
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    That link doesn't go to any comments by Chodo Cross, but rather to the new translation. Did I misunderstand something, or was that an error?

  3. #3

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Lol..not sure what you are talking about! :twisted:

    Sorry, wrong copy & paste. Fixed it now.

    g,

    s

  4. #4

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    As far as I can tell Mike Cross is suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, which would explain his extraordinary suffering, his anger and frustration and his somewhat extreme viewpoints on Zazen. I haven't met him though, so it's just a qualified guess. That and the schism with his teacher would also explain the self-critical view on his work. There's a sad story for you to read if you follow this link:
    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=186

    I have tried to decide which version I'm going to read first and it's probably going to be the Cross/Nishijima translation. It's regarded as the best not only by our teachers, but by many other Dogen scholars.

    The whole translation is here if you want to read some before you buy the books:
    https://www.bdkamerica.org/default.aspx?MPID=81

    Sometimes there's no difference between a madman and a genius.

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  5. #5

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Also, see this thread and the older one Jundo Sensei wrote (link at the end of Jundo's post):
    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3362&p=47217

  6. #6

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Hi everybody,

    I owe Chodo Cross more than anybody else in this world. Studied with him, sat with him, had Alexander lessons ( truly the best thing Zen guys could do)Yet, it is true, that he has been very difficult sometimes. The work he did on the Shobogenzo is remakable, full stop.
    Deep bow to my teacher and big sadness too.

    gassho


    Taigu

  7. #7

    Re: Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Also, see this thread and the older one Jundo Sensei wrote (link at the end of Jundo's post):
    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3362&p=47217
    Thanks for Pontus...I somehow forgot about this post...very useful.

    I have a heavy heart for Cross...I knew nothing of these difficulties and feel quite saddened to hear.

    I think I will pick up both translations for comparative purposes.

    Thank you again,

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  8. #8

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Hi,

    Let me just scatter a few words ...

    Most serious Dogen scholars I have spoken to about the topic ... Steven Heine, Taigen Leighton and some others ... describe the Nishijima-Cross "Shobogenzo" as probably the most faithfully word-for-word precise and "close to the original" of the several complete Shobogenzo translations. I recently went through my third or fourth cover to cover reading of all four volumes, always reading each section line by line in comparison with at least one other respected translation (and the Japanese original) ... and it is true. I cannot begin to express the unbelievable level of skill and effort required to accomplish that ... but five minutes reading the amazing maze which is Shobogenzo will give anyone a small taste. Chodo Cross is, beyond doubt, one of the finest translators of Japanese I have ever encountered (As a translator of Japanese myself, I cannot hold a corner of a shadow to his talents in classical Japanese). That translation remains a masterwork.

    However, like the master surgeon who also is a demanding, difficult, stormy person without much "bedside manner" ... Mike Cross has sometimes been a difficult person. Even more, he has also wrestled with some huge demons over the years, which sometimes have gotten the better of him. I sometimes have called him "our lineage's Bobby Fischer", in reference to the brilliant chess master who was swept away by demons at times in his life. Sometimes Chodo (like Bobby) would act very angry and obsessed with things beyond my understanding. Sometimes it would verge or cross over into semi-racist comments, the anger demon taking over. I think Chodo Cross is a genius of translation, and some brilliant minds are like that (I think you need an incredible level of drive, truly obsession, to pull off the feats of translation he accomplishes. I hesitate to say or surmise what else may have been involved.). In recent years, Mike seems to have recovered some peace and settled quite a bit. Now, he is working on another impossible translation ... of the works of the Indian master Ashvaghosha from Sanskrit.

    http://nothingbutthelifeblood.blogspot.com/

    In past years, Chodo would wrestle with my teacher, Nishijima Roshi ... he would bump heads with me (I would foolishly try to step in between them sometimes). He seems past that now.

    Chodo and Nishijima Roshi did have some disagreements (that only an expert could understand) on wording and phrasing aspects of the Shobogenzo. They can be two stubborn guys, and neither would yield. However, because of the way the translation was done ... so detailed and precise in following the phrases and grammar of the original ... the quality did not suffer in any way that any average reader would really notice (such as the disagreement Mike points to in that posting between rendering MU-I as "without intention" or "free of intention/free of effort"). Mike would often start a war about such things, and Nishijima would not yield an inch of the front lines.

    In fact, the Nishijima-Cross version is so accurate and precise, that it is not necessarily the most readable ... and Tanahashi and others often soften or rephrase passages for the modern ear. I often recommend folks new to Shobogenzo to pick up copies of Moon in a Dewdrop or Enlightenment Unfolds, Tanahashi's translations of key sections of Shobogenzo that have been around for years. Even though Tanahashi often changes slightly or "paraphrases" Dogen, he is a gifted poet and writer and the result is usually lovely while still close to the original.

    Read more about comparing the several available Shobogenzo translations here:

    viewtopic.php?p=47135#p47135

    You know, in the history of Buddhism, not everyone became a "teacher" in the same way or with the same means of teachings. Some folks were great "teachers" because they had "a way with words and the wordless" in a "classroom setting" at the temple. Some were made "teachers" because they were temple administrators ... cooking the meals, cleaning the toilets, keeping a roof on the place. These days, some may work as nurses of the sick in a hospice. Some were great translators (whether or not they had talents in the other areas). Each of these folks "teach" in their own way ... making food available to the monks, making ancient words available across the language barrier.

    In Chodo's case (like some other difficult teachers in the news these days), they sometimes teach by falling down, loosing the way, getting momentarily tackled by demons. It can happen to anyone ... even someone who has read all the words in the ancient texts.

    Gassho, J

  9. #9

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Thank you both for your warm and honest posts. I have a deep respect for the man and I'm glad he has found some peace now.

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  10. #10

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    I cannot resist to share with you just a sample of the clarity with which Mike sometimes teaches:

    Hearing that the Buddha sat like the king of mountains, the stupid among us, in which category I include myself, are liable to strive to sit like a mountain -- bringing to this effort all the abstract knowledge we have accumulated in our brain on such matters as primitive reflexes, Alexander Technique, listening work, Dogen's instructions for sitting-zen, the Buddha's teaching of four noble truths, the flow of chi in Chinese medicine, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Striving thus tends to tie us to what we already know -- mainly a faulty sense of where up is, a rubbish heap of bright ideas, and wrong inner patterns of use. Whereas the whole point of sitting like a mountain might be that a mountain never strives to be a mountain and never strives to be anything other than a mountain. A mountain never disturbs itself by failing to accept itself totally as a mountain.

    So Buddha sitting like a mountain is not teaching that we strivers should strive to understand. It is teaching that we should categorically NOT strive to understand. It may be that faulty feelings, bright ideas, and wrong patterns of use, all spontaneously drop off just in the moment of not striving itself.
    Mountain still state is nothing you can think about. It is an action beyond belief systems, schools or ready-made opinions. Sitting beyond Buddhism and Buddhas. The full power of "NO" is stopping the bad habits and patterns, so to UNDO rather than indulge in body-building and stone carving. This is what I could catch a glimpse of in his company. Not steeling blankets or trying to catch fireflies. Opening our hands. Understand how much we fool ourselves. Coming back to simplicity. My life is now an endless clumsy exploration of this.

    gassho


    Taigu

  11. #11
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    I cannot resist to share with you just a sample of the clarity with which Mike sometimes teaches:

    Hearing that the Buddha sat like the king of mountains, the stupid among us, in which category I include myself, are liable to strive to sit like a mountain -- bringing to this effort all the abstract knowledge we have accumulated in our brain on such matters as primitive reflexes, Alexander Technique, listening work, Dogen's instructions for sitting-zen, the Buddha's teaching of four noble truths, the flow of chi in Chinese medicine, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Striving thus tends to tie us to what we already know -- mainly a faulty sense of where up is, a rubbish heap of bright ideas, and wrong inner patterns of use. Whereas the whole point of sitting like a mountain might be that a mountain never strives to be a mountain and never strives to be anything other than a mountain. A mountain never disturbs itself by failing to accept itself totally as a mountain.

    So Buddha sitting like a mountain is not teaching that we strivers should strive to understand. It is teaching that we should categorically NOT strive to understand. It may be that faulty feelings, bright ideas, and wrong patterns of use, all spontaneously drop off just in the moment of not striving itself.
    Mountain still state is nothing you can think about. It is an action beyond belief systems, schools or ready-made opinions. Sitting beyond Buddhism and Buddhas. The full power of "NO" is stopping the bad habits and patterns, so to UNDO rather than indulge in body-building and stone carving. This is what I could catch a glimpse of in his company. Not steeling blankets or trying to catch fireflies. Opening our hands. Understand how much we fool ourselves. Coming back to simplicity. My life is now an endless clumsy exploration of this.

    gassho


    Taigu
    And yet by many accounts, the man seems to suffer from a great many flaws that seem insurmountable. I wonder if he shouldn't take up bodybuilding.

  12. #12

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    And yet by many accounts, the man seems to suffer from a great many flaws that seem insurmountable. I wonder if he shouldn't take up bodybuilding.
    Hey Chet,

    Here is my feeling on this, gathered over decades of watching "perfectly imperfect" Zen folks.

    At lot of (most?) people come into Buddhist practice because they have "issues", trauma and scars, psychological conditions, harmful tendencies toward self and others. They run toward Buddhist practice, and meditation, as some treatment for that.

    After years and years of practice, the psychological condition often vanishes ... but for others, often remains in some way ... although (hopefully) better than before, the worst rough corners of human nature rounded off. I think I once heard Mike say that sitting so intently 4 hours a day, each and every day, was the only real peace he had from himself. I have seen enough folks to know that this practice does leave almost all people better ... and often does work an effective cure (or is one part of the cure) ... from depression, addiction, compulsive disorders, eating disorders, anger issues, self loathing ... you name it. However, like the alcoholic who is still "an alcoholic" even if never having had a drink for 20 years ... the tendency, the possibility yet remains.

    I think Chodo came into this practice with some serious "issues" from before practice ... and I think that this Practice did not completely remove those issues ... and I also imagine it may have saved him from being much much much worse. Same for the other "roshis" who fall into alcoholism like Maezumi Roshi, unhealthy sex issues like those two fellows now in the news, and the like. Sometimes this practice makes us very good human beings who rarely if ever fall down, sometimes it just makes us better human beings who still fall down too often.

    Gassho, J

  13. #13
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Hey Jundo,

    I made the comment only because I recognize many of the same problems (minus the brilliance) in myself....and also to gently prod Taigu about the bodybuilding remark, LOL.

    I know you have quite a bit of tolerance of people's issues - I wasn't taking a swipe at Cross.

  14. #14

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Hey Jundo,

    I made the comment only because I recognize many of the same problems (minus the brilliance) in myself....and also to gently prod Taigu about the bodybuilding remark, LOL.

    I know you have quite a bit of tolerance of people's issues - I wasn't taking a swipe at Cross.
    I didn't think you were.

  15. #15

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Body building...Wrestling with weight and other physical issues, I am thinking about something along that line :? ...

    gassho

    Taigu

  16. #16

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Hey Jundo,

    I made the comment only because I recognize many of the same problems (minus the brilliance) in myself....and also to gently prod Taigu about the bodybuilding remark, LOL.

    I know you have quite a bit of tolerance of people's issues - I wasn't taking a swipe at Cross.
    I didn't think you were.
    I thought you were. I'm glad you weren't!

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  17. #17

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Hi,

    Someone just wrote me to ask how in the world I could say this ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    I have seen enough folks to know that this practice does leave almost all people better ... and often does work an effective cure (or is one part of the cure) ... from depression, addiction, compulsive disorders, eating disorders, anger issues, self loathing ... you name it.
    ... when, on another thread recently, Taigu and I have been jumping around insisting that ...

    ... Zazen is pointless ...
    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3442

    ... that ya have to drop all thought of "getting somewhere" ... using it to "fix things" ... using it as a tool or a treatment for what ails us human beings ...

    ISN'T THAT A BLOODY CONTRADICTION! :shock:

    Well, in this Crazily-Sane Shikantaza Way ... one way to get somewhere is to truly, through and through, abandon all need to get somewhere else ... one way to fill the hole within us is to drop all thought of something lacking and feel the 'whole' ... one way to fix things is to realize there is nothing to fix ...

    ... all while moving forward, quitting the bad habits, fixing what needs to be fixed.

    The only way to really really really get the Point of Zazen ... is to truly reach the point where Zazen is just pointless.

    Getting to where's nothing missing and nothing to add ... even amid all the things in life missing, we wish we could take away or add ... is a Tremendous Addition!

    Yes, even if not a perfect cure (though sometimes it is that too) ... doing so will work wonders in helping with depression, addiction, compulsive disorders, eating disorders, anger issues, self loathing. It may not cure your cancer or fix your busted marriage ... but it may allow one to be at peace with all that too.

    Zazen is timeless and pointless ... but don't ever think that there is no point, or that it's just a waste of time.

    Gassho, Jundo

  18. #18
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Isn't it weird that often when you stop trying so hard to fix yourself, your demons often naturally diminish?

    Like shadowboxing - when you stop fighting, your shadow stops fighting.

    Of course, it's not always like this, but surprisingly often. Usually, I forget this and I go to war.

    So maybe when you stop trying to use zazen to fix yourself, paradoxically it 'fixes' you.

  19. #19

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Isn't it weird that often when you stop trying so hard to fix yourself, your demons often naturally diminish?

    Like shadowboxing - when you stop fighting, your shadow stops fighting.

    Of course, it's not always like this, but surprisingly often. Usually, I forget this and I go to war.

    So maybe when you stop trying to use zazen to fix yourself, paradoxically it 'fixes' you.
    That's right.

    But it's not mere "stoicism" as we once had a chat about. Saying so just misses the point.

    Because, when we really really really stop needing to look for where we are and who we are and where life is and where it needs to go ... ipso facto Found.

    Like your fingertip, in search of your fingertip, pointing to where it thinks your fingertip is, and where your fingertip thinks it should best be instead to be more fingertippy:

    Where is the fingertip to find the fingertip, how is the fingertip to point to the finger's point? 8)

    Or, as old Dogen might say ... how is the moon to point at the fingertip?

    Gassho, J

  20. #20

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    I agree Chet,
    Since we conjure up our own demons, we're really fighting ourselves, aren't we? How could we hope to win over ourselves? It's impossible. When we escalate the war, we reinforce the demon side too, unconsciously. By opening the hand of thought in Shikantaza, I guess we are slowing down or stopping the conjuring up of more demons to fight. In time, maybe one learns to recognize the demons for what they are and become aware of their presence, which makes them lose their power over you, just like thoughts can no longer pass your guard and 'kidnap' you as easily in Zazen as they do in our ordinary life. When we wake up from our nightmarish dreaming, maybe the necessary conditions for the demons to appear no longer exist.

    Also, when we let life manifest life, the universal self manifest universal self, I imagine there is some sort of purification of the mind, a sort of natural healing process or returning to wholeness, a restoration of original mind, when the defiling of our mind stops. With time and practice, the evil 'seeds', the original cause for the demons to appear, may lose some of their power in our life, even when we are not sitting Zazen.

    This is by no means a truth claim, just my way of looking at it, and it may be very, very delusional, as always. :wink:

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  21. #21
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    I agree Chet,
    Since we conjure up our own demons, we're really fighting ourselves, aren't we? How could we hope to win over ourselves? It's impossible. When we escalate the war, we reinforce the demon side too, unconsciously. By opening the hand of thought in Shikantaza, I guess we are slowing down or stopping the conjuring up of more demons to fight. In time, maybe one learns to recognize the demons for what they are and become aware of their presence, which makes them lose their power over you, just like thoughts can no longer pass your guard and 'kidnap' you as easily in Zazen as they do in our ordinary life. When we wake up from our nightmarish dreaming, maybe the necessary conditions for the demons to appear no longer exist.

    Also, when we let life manifest life, the universal self manifest universal self, I imagine there is some sort of purification of the mind, a sort of natural healing process or returning to wholeness, a restoration of original mind, when the defiling of our mind stops. With time and practice, the evil 'seeds', the original cause for the demons to appear, may lose some of their power in our life, even when we are not sitting Zazen.

    This is by no means a truth claim, just my way of looking at it, and it may be very, very delusional, as always. :wink:

    Gassho,
    Pontus
    Jundo,

    *Gassho*

    Pontus,

    Usually it's that way - although I think some things actually need to be overcome by force of will - addictions and whatnot....although I could very well be wrong.

    Chet

  22. #22

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Usually it's that way - although I think some things actually need to be overcome by force of will - addictions and whatnot....
    I'm not an expert, but in my own experience quitting swedish snus (equivalent to 50-75 cigarettes), it also has a lot to do with acceptance. And in many ways the psychological reaction is similar to that of the loss of a dear friend. During the first time you feel a great sense of loss and sorrow. You think about the object of your addiction every waking moment, then every hour, every day, every week, every month. Eventually years may pass without thinking of it, but the feeling of loss and sorrow will always remain, in a way. It is only when we fully accept our life without it that we are free. And that isn't easy.

    /Pontus

  23. #23
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Isn't it weird that often when you stop trying so hard to fix yourself, your demons often naturally diminish?
    Truer words have yet to be spoken.

  24. #24

    Re: Shobogenzo Translations

    The shadowboxing metaphor is very apt one to describe what we do while practicing. Thank you so much Chet

    Deep gassho

    Rimon

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