View Full Version : Jundo's WORDLESS LANGUAGE SCHOOL

09-08-2017, 03:28 AM
JUNDO NOTE: The following "Jundo's Wordless Language School" lessons were just something I previously created for quickly introducing our novice priests to a bit of "Zen lingo" and Zenny Kanji reading. I just posted it here as it might be a little interesting to some. It is not really serious, and just a first "down and dirty" quick introduction to the whole topic. Real study of Buddhist Chinese/Japanese, calligraphy and such, for example takes a lifetime.

Gassho, J

Hey Guys,

I am going to park these here, in case they are of interest to anyone. I made these to briefly introduce our Treeleaf novice priests to "Zengo" Japanese (the weird mix of archaic Japanese mispronunciations of Chinese often used for Zen words and phrases). Also, some points about Japanese that, sometimes, are overlooked in text books are included too, based on my experience.

Hope it is helpful.


LESSON 1 - Chinese v. Japanese


This is the first of our completely disorganized and random lessons of "Zengo" (禅語) ... the Language of Zen! However, I say it is Wordless Zen Language "Mugen no Zengo" "無言の禅語", because never forget that Zen Language is fundamentally Wordless! [monk]

Okay, some basic stuff!

Japanese people probably had no written language until they were exposed to Chinese culture about 1500 years ago. However, the Japanese had their own spoken language. So, what the Japanese did when they borrowed the Chinese Characters (called "Kanji" in Japanese) is to begin to pronounce most Kanji in at least two ways: The Chinese way (or, better said, the Japanese approximate pronunciation of the Chinese pronunciation) and the Japanese language way.

So, for example, this is the Kanji for water ... 水 ... pronounced in modern Chinese as Shuǐ (something like "shoe - hey" in pronunciation). The Japanese took the Kanji, and came to read it two ways, as "sui" (something like the word "sweet" without the "t"), which is the Japanese approximation of the Chinese, and as "Mizu" (sounds like "Me - Zoo"), the traditional Japanese way.

There is no hard and fast rule for when the Japanese use one pronunciation or the other (the Chinese way is more common in compound words like "Suiso", which means "water tank"), and I will leave it beyond our topic today. gassho1

Now, a couple of more things about differences between Chinese and Japanese:

The above pronunciations are from modern Japanese and Chinese. Back 1500 years ago (and again later in the 13th century when Dogen went to China), both Chinese and Japanese were pronounced differently than they are today. I am guessing that "water" has not changed so much, but many words have ... even the word "Zen"! The great translator "Red Pine" (Bill Porter) says that the Japanese "Zen" is closer to how the Chinese used to pronounce the Kanji which the Chinese now read "Ch'an", especially in the dialect in which there was the most interchange between Japan and China back then (read page 3 here) ...


Next, note that Chinese is a "tonal language", while Japanese is not. So, depending on the tone in which you pronounce a word, the meaning in China completely changes (When I was a student in China, I once wanted to tell a friend how nice his "mother" was, but instead complimented his "horse" ... both variations on the pronunciation "ma". Fortunately, he understood the error, and an international incident was avoided.) :eek:


The above is in standard Mandarin Chinese. It gets even more complicated because China has countless local languages and dialects (for example, Cantonese ... which has 6 tones! ... and is as different from Mandarin as French is from Spanish).

It has been much easier to pronounce Japanese because Japanese is not a tonal language (actually, pitch changes the meaning, but is much less extreme so Japanese usually understand even if one uses the wrong pitch. So, chopsticks is (HAshi) but bridge is (hashi or haSHI).

Japanese has many local dialects too, with their own local pronunciations, some mutually unintelligible to Japanese from other parts of the country (for example, the people of Kagoshima in Kyushu traditionally call water as "oba" and not "mizu" like in the rest of Japan).


Anyway, that is enough for today.

Gassho 合掌, J

09-08-2017, 03:30 AM
LESSON 2 - Chinese v. Japanese v. Chino-Japanese Grammar!

Hi Again,

Last time we saw how the Japanese, way back when, did not have a writing system, so took the Chinese writing system and started to pronounce Kanji in either the (kinda) Chinese way or purely Japanese way.

Well, the same is true for written grammar.

The Japanese took the Chinese writing system, and began writing sentences way back exactly (more or less) with Chinese sentence structure. These, in turn, they began to read in either the (kinda) Chinese way or in a Japanese way (and usually in a combination of both!!).

In other words, they wrote it Chinese and either then read it as (kinda) Chinese or as Japanese (or a little of both).

The problem is that:

(1) Sometimes word order is very different in Chinese than in Japanese. So, for example, if a 4 words phrase in Chinese was written A-B-C-D, the Japanese might need to read it as A-B-D-C in Japanese for it to make sense to them even though what is written on the page is A-B-C-D.

(2) Chinese is an amazing language in which what is written down is usually just the key words of a sentence, while many of the connecting words or "add ons" are left to the reader to "fill in the blanks" mentally. This is part of the evocative power of much Chinese prose and poetry. For example, in Chinese, an English sentence such as "I fed the cat which I love" might just say something like "fed love cat." It is even trickier in Japanese, which has all kinds of "add ons" to words to connect, indicate politeness level and the like (so becoming "beloved cat to which, food was humbly given"). Thus, a Chinese sentence A-B-C-D might actually be read by the Japanese as A-X-B-D-C-Y, EVEN THOUGH WHAT IS WRITTEN ON THE PAGE IS STILL ONLY "A-B-C-D." [scared]

Here is an example to illustrate this, the chant of the "Song of the Precious Mirror Samadhi" (寶鏡三昧歌, HŌKYŌ ZAMMAI in Japanese pronunciation), attributed to Dongshan Liangjie (Japanese: Tōzan Ryōkai), the Traditional co-founder of the Soto school.

First, let us look at the title of the piece: 寶鏡三昧歌. This consists of 5 Kanji which may be broken down as something like:

寶 - Precisious/Treasure
鏡 - Mirror
三昧 - Samadhi
歌 - Song

... which is usually rendered in English as "Song of the Precious Mirror Samadhi" or a similar title in English. The modern Chinese pronunciation (who knows about 1000 years ago!) of the title is "Baojing sanmei ge." In this case, the Japanese decided to just keep the word order of the Chinese, and pronounce it with their Japanese approximation of whatever the Chinese was back 1000 years ago (and in what dialect): "Houkyou Zammai" (they somehow dropped off the "song" kanji, but it would be "ka" if there).

HOWEVER, for the rest of the chant, they took to reading the sentence structure according to Japanese word order and with many "add ons".

For example, the first sentence of the chant is "The dharma of thusness is intimately transmitted by buddhas and ancestors", written "right to the point" with merely 8 Kanji in Chinese ... 如是之法 佛祖密附. Literally something like:

如 - Thus 是 - This (as a compound word, meaning "Thusness")
之 - possessive like " 's " in English
法 - Dharna/Law
佛 - Buddhas
祖 - Ancestors
密 - Intimately
附- Bestow

... or something like "Thusness's Law Buddhas Ancestors Intimately Bestow". very bare bones in Chinese, and is pronounced:

如 ru2 是 shi4 之zhi1 法 fa3 佛fo2 祖 zu3 密 mi4 付 fu4

(The little numbers next to the Chinese pronunciation indication which of the 4 tones is required).

Now, if the Japanese had wanted, they could have just gone ahead and chanted this following the Chinese word order, pronounced of course with the Japanese approximation of that: I believe it would be "Nyoze no Ho Busso Mitsu fu". But the Japanese chose to read it adding a couple of elements not present in the original: Nyoze no Hō Busso Mitsu Ni Fusu. (the "ni" is like English "to" and the "su" is a verb ending). So, the simple Chinese "mi fu" becomes in Japanese "mitsu ni fusu".

They added even more to the second line, which is in Chinese: 汝今得之 宜能保護 or "Now you have it; preserve it well". In this case, the Kanji literally mean:

汝 - You
今 - Now
得 - Obtain
之 - It
宜能 - Compound word meaning "well"
保護 - Compound word meaning "preserve."

... literally "you now obtain it, well preserve." and is read in Chinese as "汝 ru3 今 jin1 得 de2 之 zhi1 宜 yi2 善 shan4 保 bao3 護 hu4" ... And this "ru jin de zhi yi shan bao hu" in Chinese is chanted in Japanese as ...

Nanji ima kore o etari; yoroshiku yoku hōgo subeshi.

You don't even need to speak Japanese to realize there are a lot more words and syllables in there! Among other changes, this changes word order and adds several additional elements such as:

For example, 得 de 之 zhi (obtain it) becomes "kore o etari" (it have obtained) with a connecting "o" (not found in the original) between Kore (it) and Etari (Obtained). In other words, "it" and "obtain" switch places ("obtain it" becomes "it is obtained"). The simple "well" of "yishan" becomes "yoroshiku yoku" which is a much more elaborate way of saying it such as "Really really no foolin' well". There is also a "subeshi" at the end, meaning "you have best/you should" which is implied, but unstated, in the original Chinese.

For other chants, the Japanese do not do this. For example, the Heart Sutra is chanted by the Japanese following Chinese word order and grammer (with their own Japanese pronunciation, of course) ...

English Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva when doing deep Prajna Paramita
Literally Kannon Bodhisattva ---- doing deep --- Prajna Paramita ---- when

Why they do this for some chants and not others? GOOD QUESTION! [confused]

Anyway, getting back to the Houkyou Zammai, you can hear Deshimaru Roshi chant the lines we have been discussing ...

Houkyou Zammai
Nyoze no hō, Busso mitsu ni fusu,
nanji ima kore o etari, yoroshiku yoku hogo subeshi,

... at exactly the 2:11 (from the bell) to 2:26 mark on this recording.


However, I have listened to this 10 times, and it seems to me he hesitates and forgets or fudged several of the middle words. You can hear ...

Houkyou Zammai
Nyoze no hō, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX nanji ima kore o etari, yoroshiku yoku hogo subeshi,

But the XXXX in middle is something else. It is still a masterful performance.

And speaking of masterful, someone made a masterful, line by line study of the Houkyou Zammai that we may use for the Class of 2010 study soon or this month. It is a pretty amazing presentation.


Gassho, J

PS - I found another nice example this afternoon, the famous Zen expression "Putting another head on top of the head." We encountered this in our Book of Serenity reflections last week ...


The Chinese way of writing this is, short and sweet, just 4 Kanji ...


頭 - Head
上 - Above
安 - Put/Rest
頭 - Head

or Tou4 Shang4 An1 Tou4 . If the Japanese were going to read this Toy-Shang-An-Tou according to Chinese grammar, it would be Zu-Jo-An-Zu (Head Above Rest Head). However, they read it "Zujo ni Zu o Anzu" which is literally "Headtop on Head is Rested" ["Zujo (Headtop) ni (on) Zu (Head) object indicator (o) Anzu (Rested)"].

In other words, the second head goes from the end of the sentence to being read in the middle, even though it is still written at the end of the sentence!

Does this cause all your heads a headache? [toomuch]

09-08-2017, 03:33 AM
LESSON 3 - Kanji in a Nutshell

Hey Guys,

A quick introduction to the history of Chinese Characters (called Kanji in Japanese), in a nutshell.

The most basic Kanji seem to have developed as pictorial images of what they represent. For example, the Kanji for "person" (nin, jin or hito in Japanese, the latter being the "Native" Japanese pronunciation and the former the Japanese repronunciation of Chinese) is 人, a stick figure person. Mountain (san or yama in Japanese) is probably the three peaks of a mountain 山. River (sen or kawa in Japanese) likely represents the streaming of the river: 川.

The Kanji developed from earlier versions, perhaps originally soothsaying symbols scratched on animal bones for fortune telling. For example, here is an old example of the "river" Kanji found on oracle bones ...


But then the Kanji become more abstract, both in meaning and visual relationship to what they represent. For example, here is "water" (sui or mizu), 水, which is probably some variation on "river". Then, more complicated Kanji with some "liquid" or water connection to the meaning would be created usually with the 水 water kanji included within them as a part (called a "radical"). For example, here is the Kanji for "ice", which is the same as the water Kanji with an extra stroke: 氷. The thing is that, when the water Kanji appears as a radical in some Kanji about some liquid, it is usually highly abbreviated: So, 水 becomes 氵. (Yes, I know it is hard to see the connection between 水 and 氵, but trust me that they both are the same "water" Kanji)

So, for example, to "cry" is this: 泣 (because "tears" are related to liquid). This is "perspiration": 汗 .

Then, continuing on with further abstraction, some Kanji seem to have the water radical for reasons that have little obvious connection to the meaning (at least at first) or for reasons lost to history. Maybe the original meaning has been lost or changed. Sometimes, it is just because of the sound. Sometimes historians can only guess why. So, for example, one finds the water radical in the Kanji for "Western Civilization" (洋) because the Kanji also means "ocean" and, well, Western countries are typically across the ocean from Asia. This 清 means "clear and pure" perhaps because water is ideally so. This Kanji 活 means "active", which is hard to see as having a connection with water. On the other hand, it is made up by two parts meaning "water" and "tongue", so likely has some connection to a wagging tongue.

Next Topic:

Most Chinese and Japanese words are compounds of two or more Kanji which combine to form their meaning: For example, "telephone" is 電話 literally "electric" and "talk" (Notice that "talk" also has that "tongue" portion we just saw). Buddhism 佛教 is made up of two Kanji, the first meaning "Buddha" and the second meaning "Teaching".

However, some words have Kanji applied just for phonetic reasons: For example, the name "Shakyamuni" is represented in Japanese by four Kanji which seems to have been selected primarily because they are pronounced "Sha-ka-mu-ni" 釈迦牟尼. There seems to be little connection with the meaning of most of these Kanji besides the phonetic pronunciation.

Next Topic:

The writing styles of "classic Kanji" have been simplified in China, Taiwan and Japan (and the simplifications between Chinese and Japanese are often quite different). For example, we just saw the classic "complex" Kanji for Buddha: 佛 . This has become 仏 in its simplified form in Chinese and Japanese (and also happens to be the Kanji for the country of France ... for reasons that have more to do with the pronunciation of "France" in Chinese and Japanese sounding a bit like Buddha than for any particular Buddhist connection! ). The Kanji we saw for electricity ... 電 ... has been simplified to 电 in Chinese, but not Japanese. The complex character for iron ... 鐵 ... was simplified to 铁 in Chinese ... but to 鉄 in Japanese. "Zen" has been simplified in Japan from 禪 to 禅, and you will see both used from time to time. )

Next Topic:

When Japanese and Chinese practice calligraphy, the writing can be quite abstract ... so much so that even educated Japanese have trouble to make out the very abstract ways of writing without special training in Calligraphy. For example, one of the most abstract and "cursive" forms of writing is known as "Soshi" : 草書, which means "Grass Script" as it looks like grass. Both the left and right side say "Soshi"


Most Japanese would have trouble reading the cursive pair on the right side.

(This is coupled with the fact that most modern Japanese, even if educated, have difficulty in reading classic Japanese forms from centuries ago, especially as the grammar gets closer to classic Chinese. Most modern Japanese, for example, would have great difficulty to read a scroll such as that by Master Dogen, below, without special training).

However, such styles are lovely and expressive. Thus, you will often see "Shoshi" and like cursive styles used in Zen calligraphy. There are also various "in between" cursive styles, a little easier to read, such as that used by Master Dogen in the below scroll. It is easier to read because less abstract than Shoshi.

Next Topic:

We saw last time that the Japanese first began to write Japanese purely in Chinese Characters, following Chinese Grammar even though different from Japanese Grammar, and omitting all manner of connecting words. So, for example, you all know the first line of Master Dogen's Fukanzazengi ...

The Way is originally perfect and all-pervading. How could it be contingent upon practice and realization?

This is that, said to be written in Dogen's own hand, in almost a pure Chinese style ...


If you look at the first line after the title on the right side, you see : 原夫道本円通修証仮 (although some of the Kanji are not simplified)。

This would need to be read in the Japanese way as

Tazunuru ni sore, d˘ moto enzű, ikadeka shush˘ o karan

But the Chinese characters by themselves only read as follows, leaving out a lot of Japanese language elements:


SO, the Japanese finally invented a new script, called Hiragana, to connect all the Chinese characters so they read according to Japanese grammar, and adding in all the missing elements. Thus ...


became ...


All the extra "squiggles" between the Kanji are the "Hiragana" which allows what would be only "Tazu-so-d˘-moto-enzű-shush˘-ka" to be read the Japanese way as "Tazunuru ni sore, d˘ moto enzű, ikadeka shush˘ o karan", supplying all the missing parts.

Here is a chart of the Hiragana ... including some not used in modern Japanese ...


And that is enough for today.

Gassho, J

09-08-2017, 03:34 AM
Lesson 4 - Dharma Names (and the Wind)

Hey Guys,

I was going to write Shingen and Shugen about their new Way Names/Dharma Names, but felt it might make a good review here too. Please read these short essays (including one by Shohaku Okamura) from a booklet on choosing names published by the SFZC,


Although Shingen and Shugen are still "Shingen" and "Shugen", I changed some of the Kanji in their names (this is a Japanese custom at times of some transition). So, although the words are pronounced the same as before, the meaning has changed somewhat. As described in the essays, I select names based on feeling, often as an aspiration for who the person may someday become, often with a bit of humor or overstatement, often to capture some inner quality that I sense. It is simply a matter of the heart.

You will note that some Kanji actually have a long, extended vowel sound ("Shugen" is actually "Shuugen" and "Jundo" is actually "Jundou"). It is fine just to write "Shugen" and "Jundo" in English however. Sometimes the long vowel is seen by a little line over the top, such as "Dōgen" which is actually pronounced "Dougen". Here is a short video on the topic:


In recent years, I have taken to including the Kanji "Dou" (Way) in "Dogo" name, to represent the "Dou" in "Jundou" and Nishijima Roshi's "Gudou". (It is also the "Dou" of Dougen". I did not do this for everyone in our early Ordinations but, no matter, those names are fine as well.)

Kanji can have various related meanings (sometimes various barely related meanings) when translated into English. For example, 明 can mean "bright, clear" or "obvious", but also "dawn". So, there is a little flexibility in exactly how to translate these Dharma names into English.

Michael's new name is "RINDOU SHINGEN" (倫道 真現). I would render this as something like "Ethical Way, True Appearance". The "Gen" is the same "Gen" Kanji as "Genjo Koan". I would just write in English as "Rindo Shingen".

"Rin" sounds like the dog "Rin Tin Tin", "Dou" sounds like cookie "Dough", "Shin" sounds like the part of the leg, "Gen" sounds like the second syllable of "again". :)

倫 - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%80%AB
道 - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E9%81%93
真 - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E7%9C%9F
現 - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E7%8F%BE

Ron is "MEIDOU SHUUGEN" (明道 修眼). This is something like "Bright/Clear Way, Disciplined Eye". This "Gen" is the same "Gen" Kanji as "Shobogenzo". I would just write in English as "Meido Shugen".

"Mei" sounds like the month of "May", Dou" sounds like cookie "Dough", Shuu is like "shoe" and "Gen" sounds like the second syllable of "again". :encouragement:

明 - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E6%98%8E
道 - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E9%81%93
修 - http://jisho.org/kanji/details/%E4%BF%AE
眼 - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E7%9C%BC

If you have any question regarding your names, please write me.


On the new Rakusu I sent Shugen and Shingen this time, I included the Kanji for "Wind" (風) Fuu in its Sino-Japanese pronunciation, Kaze in its Japanese pronunciation. I wrote in a semi-cursive style, and you can see examples here ... including how the Kanji derived from earlier symbols probably used in divination ...


Kanji calligraphy can be written in a variety of ways that express the power and vividness of what is being portrayed. Perhaps this image derives from wind filling sails ...


Of course, in Zen, the wind can be a symbol of many things ... the vibrancy of Emptiness for example ...

Keizan wrote:

The wind traverses the vast sky,
clouds emerge from the mountains;
Feelings of enlightenment and things of the world
are of no concern at all.

From Yung-ming:

You wish to know the spirit of Yung-ming Zen?
Look at the lake in front of the gate.
When the sun shines, it radiates light and brightness,
When the wind comes, there arise ripples and waves.

... also naturalness ...

From Ikkyu:

When it blows,
The mountain wind is boisterous,
But when it blows not,
It simply blows not.

This by Dogen:

Spring wind has begun to blow in the mountains.
Both on the peaks and in the valleys,
[The colors of] various flowers are shining.


"Scrubbed clean by the dawn wind, the night mist clears.
Dimly seen, the blue mountains form a single line."

Gassho, J

PS - Just to mention, all pronunciation of Dharma Names are, of course, in the Chinese via Japanese pronunciation, not the native Japanese pronunciation. Thus, for example 道 Dou (Tao or To in Chinese-Chinese) is Michi in native Japanese.

09-08-2017, 03:53 AM
Lesson 5 - Learn to Write the Kanji

Hi Guys,

This is a low priority, optional, long term project if it is interesting to you. It would teach you how to write Chinese-Japanese Characters (a skill that Zen Priests may undertake from time to time, in writing a Rakusu back or the like) ... even without being able to read or speak Chinese and Japanese.

It is surprisingly easy to learn to write characters copying good models by skilled writers, even if a cultured Japanese or Chinese persons would recognize at a glance that you really don't know what you are doing!

A Sangha member happened to post this week a wonderful page on the Heart Sutra that I had been meaning to post here for awhile. Not only does it explain the literal meaning, character by character, of the Chinese-Japanese Heart Sutra, but it offers lessons in how to copy the characters. Copying characters from famous texts and calligraphers, in fact, is one of the ways that Japanese and Chinese natives themselves employ to improve their penmanship (much as we learn how to undertake Zen ceremony by watching the actions of expert monks, they learn to write by copying expert writers).

The page is here ...


Here instructions in "How To" are on this page (however, you probably do not want to learn the archaic "Seal Script" that she mentions) ...


You will need some "sumi" ink and an ink brush. There is a good chance that an Oriental Grocery or the like near you will have some that are inexpensive. You probably don't need the black "ink dish" (called a Suzuri in Japanese), and can simply use an old cup or small plastic dish as your "ink well". I recommend the bottled ink for practice, rather than the dried ink stick which must be ground into ink.


Technically, "stroke order" and direction is important in writing a Kanji, but if you are only doing this for a basic understanding, I would not be so concerned, and just work in capturing the appearance, balance and shape, including exactly every line and dot in your model as close as you can. However, after writing for awhile, you may get a sense of the stroke order and direction.


Enjoy yourself!

Gassho, Jundo

PS - I know that what I write above is sacrireligious to a true calligrapher. I am in the middle of a Japanese book on calligraphy now that has a whole section on how to place the feet while sitting, space between chest and table. degree of elbow separation from the body etc. etc. before even picking up the brush. What I write above is no more than child's play, and even Japanese children are more serious ...


09-08-2017, 03:54 AM
And a "How To" film (this was part of a project to write for Tsunami victims)! Of course, I recommend an ink brush over a ball pen.


You cannot download from the video site now, but there are many nice Hannya Shingyo to print out online.



Sutra copying was consider a practice of great merit through the centuries.

Gassho, J

09-08-2017, 03:56 AM
Lesson 6 - 100 Zen Sayings

Hey Guys,

After a bit of a hiatus here, I am going to post another lesson. However, this is very low priority with regard to all that is ongoing, so don't even feel that you are to read the material in the current month or even soon. It is just recommended whenever you get to it. I would suggest you review prior lessons on Japanese and Kanji in this series before reading.

It is a book by a Japanese author (coming from mixed Rinzai-Soto perspective) looking at 100 Zen sayings. It should help with your language study, show you some phrases and Kanji common in Zen, and also explores a bit of the history and origins. (My one caution is that the "translator's comments" that accompany each section are usually much longer than the author's own comments, and are interesting but all over the place regarding various flavors of Eastern mysticism. I would recommend you skip those comments by the translator, and stay to the main author comments. However, one thing worth looking at in the translator comments is his additional information on various Kanji, phrases and poems discussed by the author without showing the Kanji).

The book is available for free download.

Kusumoto Bunyū’s Zengo Nyūmon, An Introduction to Zen Words and Phrases

Many of the simpler Kanji and phrases are very very frequently found in calligraphy by Chinese and Japanese Zen masters on scroll, Rakusu and the like.

Gassho, J

PS - And if you are interested in calligraphy, one trick is to insert the Kanji for a phrase into "Google Images". If you then scroll down, you will tend to see (together with a lot of images having nothing to do with anything!) the phrase written in a variety of calligraphy styles by different writers. Some are very nice as a model to emulate. An example is

Zengo: Seifu meigetsu.
Translation: Pure breeze, bright moon.
Source: Hekiganroku (The Blue Cliff Record): 31

Google Images:

https://www.google.com/search?q=%E6%B8%85%E9%A2%A8%E6%98%8E%E6%9C%88+call igraphy&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAWoVChMIkfaAxqaJxwIVCdQeCh2n6gFf&biw=1366&bih=643#tbm=isch&q=%E6%B8%85%E9%A2%A8%E6%98%8E%E6%9C%88+

and one finds (by various respected calligraphers) ...




(remember that usually ... not always ... they write from right to left, top to bottom)

09-08-2017, 03:57 AM
LESSON 7 - Japanese Pronunciation

Hey Guys,

This is a task that is a low priority compared to other lessons, but something you should master sometime and fairly early as we deal with so many Japanese words. One reason is that it is surprisingly easy. There really are not that many sounds to master in Japanese in order to pronounce correctly almost all phrases, Chants and the like that we encounter. Also, most are not that far away from equivalent English or Spanish sounds, and you already use and know most of these pronunciations in your native language (for example, the sound "nu" in Japanese is pretty much just the same as the English word "new"). Compared to learning French, German or Chinese, pronunciation in Japanese is literally one of the simplest languages in the world (don't tell the Japanese that!) :p

There are two phonetic Japanese alphabets (Hiragana and Katagana) which are used for different kinds of words (e.g., Katagana is used more for imported English words). However, you do not need to worry about that at all for our purposes, because both Hiragana and Katagana are pronounced just the same (learn them if you wish, but it is really not very helpful for our purposes). So, all you need are the basics sounds, and a very few special rules and variations. In fact, you do not even really need to learn to read the Hiragana/Katagana marks themselves AT ALL, as all can be written in "Romaji" (the English alphabet). It is enough to learn "nu" is "new", without bothering with learning to read the symbols (ぬ in hiragana, or ヌ in katakana). ABC is enough. There is absolutely no reason for you to learn the hiragana/katakana symbols to do this.

Also, there are now excellent (and free) resources online, including Youtube, which give you all you would need to master Japanese pronunciation to a very high level ... even without crossing the ocean to Japan! Here are a couple ...




Also, pronouncing Buddhist Japanese can actually be easier than standard Japanese. How? Buddhist pronunciation in Chants and the like is actually more formal and regular in its pronunciation, with less sounds blending together or abbreviated into contractions and the like.

If you master just these short tables of sounds, you are pretty much there.


If anyone wants to try, your reading the above table in romaji, and pronouncing all correctly for me, would be the "final exam".

Gassho, Jundo


09-08-2017, 08:49 AM
Thanks for all this useful and interesting information! Once I starting reading, I couldn't stop! Here is a Japanese workbook for learning to copy to Heart Sutra http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Japanese-Calligraphy-Heart-Sutra-Copying-SHAKYO-Exercise-Book-Made-in-Japan-/262811341923?hash=item3d30c6d463:g:d8EAAOSw241Yfvt D I bought it a few years ago and haven't attempted it yet. It's all in Japanese but might work well with the resouces you've already posted, Jundo. It takes you through all the characters step by step with lots of space for copying.

Also, I've got some great brush pens that take ink cartridges from Amazon if anyone needs a good source. They are potentially less messy than dipping brushes into ink, although my husband would tell you that I still get ink on the furnishings and all over myself regularly. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001C0CT2O/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Ebay sell some really cheap calligraphy brushes and I think you can pretty much get the rest of the equipment on there too. Amazon is pretty good as well.

As to pitches, the resources I am using don't seem to teach them, apart from listening to audio files. I am a bit concerned I'm getting my chopsticks and my bridges confused now!

(studied Japanese intermittently for 18 months)

09-08-2017, 09:44 AM
Myogan suggested that this might be a good place to post this film of Nishijima Roshi's calligraphy. In this case some documents for a Jukai, starting from mixing the ink with dried ink on the ink stone (which can take some time to be done well) and ending with stamps affixed


I came across this email exchange with Roshi on Calligraphy and Rakusu sewing ...


Hi Roshi,


Roshi, I still have question ... can calligraphy etc. be done in a way that is not balanced state of body and mind? For example, if someone is doing calligraphy with their hand, but at the same time, their mind is thinking about politics or their job (and not focusing on calligraphy), is that still the balanced state of body and mind? Gassho, Jundo


Dear Ven. Jundo Cohen,

Sewing Rakusu, or writing calligraphy, if you do them thinking something, or perceiving something, those jobs can never be done well.

Many people can write calligraphy thinking something, or perceiving something, and so their works are not always good.

If someone is doing calligraphy thinking about politics or not focusing on calligraphy, he can never keep himself into the balanced state, and
so it is impossible for him to accomplish a good calligraphy.

With best wishes Gudo Wafu Nishijima

Nine Bows, Roshi.



Ps - Notice his way of holding the brush, called Pillow arm technique (枕腕法, ちんわんほう, chinwan hō). There are several ways suitable for different size characters. "One of the methods of holding a calligraphy brush, where the right arm (腕) that holds the brush (or more precisely the wrist) rests on the left palm laid down on the table (hence - 枕, which means “a pillow”). This technique is used mostly for writing small scale characters ... "


09-08-2017, 11:33 AM
Wow! Nice compendium to get us started.

Thank you, Jundo.



09-08-2017, 02:24 PM
Thank you Jundo ... yes, a very nice chunk to gets up moving along. =)

素晴らしい (Subarashī) = Wonderful



09-08-2017, 07:12 PM
My take on this is that learning this stuff takes a tremendous effort. I think the key thing to understand here is needs vs. wants. Do you need to learn this info or do you want to learn it. If you don't need it, go do something else that needs to be done.

My needed 2 cents.

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

09-08-2017, 10:35 PM
My take on this is that learning this stuff takes a tremendous effort. I think the key thing to understand here is needs vs. wants. Do you need to learn this info or do you want to learn it. If you don't need it, go do something else that needs to be done.

My needed 2 cents.

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

This thread is just for fun. Language learning is fun (although I also do it for work as a translator, and because I live in Japan and it is just survival!!).This area of the forum is just hobby time.

By the way, the above "Jundo's Wordless Language School" lessons I posted were just something I previously created for quickly introducing our novice priests to a bit of "Zen lingo" and Zenny Kanji reading. I just posted it here as it might be a little interesting to some. It is not really serious, and just a first "down and dirty" quick introduction to the whole topic. Real study of Buddhist Chinese/Japanese, calligraphy and such, for example takes a lifetime.

Gassho, J


09-08-2017, 10:40 PM
Got it. [emoji4]

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

09-08-2017, 11:04 PM
Thanks for so many interesting posts Jundo and also Lucy for your advice about pens - I was just looking at some earlier. I love any sort of calligraphy, it's a beautiful, calming and meditative practice.



09-08-2017, 11:22 PM
Thanks for so many interesting posts Jundo and also Lucy for your advice about pens - I was just looking at some earlier. I love any sort of calligraphy, it's a beautiful, calming and meditative practice.



Ah, missed your point that calligraphy can be appreciated without learning to do it. [emoji4]

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_