Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"Buy a set or be a loser!" - B. Warner

Hey all - Brad's posted an announcement that the Shobogenzo translated by Nishijima / Cross is again available for purchase (4 volumes at $23.99 a vol). He gives a few more details at his blog.

I'm tempted but wonder what others think about this - if anyone has experience with the Shobogenzo, etc? I'm about to move to Alaska so this purchase will have to wait until I settle down. Also, it sounds like some pretty intense scholarship is required to really get through the thing (and understand it). From what I've read of Justin's comments / posts it seems a bit intimidating, to be honest. I suppose it's probably like most things in life - you can get out of it what you put into it.

26 Comments:

At June 06, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

me, if you want to get started on book 1, it is available as a non-printable e-book for $8. you can test drive it before you make a larger cash commitment.

http://www.booksurge.com

 
At June 06, 2006, Blogger cromanyak said...

I don't think forcing oneself to read it is unnecessary. If it's interesting to you you'll read. Reading something that doesn't interest you is like trying to soak up water with a rock. At least in my experience it is.

 
At June 06, 2006, Blogger Bob J. said...

In my opinion, there are only two good zen books: (1) the Shobogenzo, and (2) whatever you have to read to inspire you to read the Shobogenzo. I have been reading Buddhist literature of all stripes since 1979, and this is the only thing I've ever read that wasn't misleading. (In my case, the book that led me to read the Shobogenzo was Brad's, after I'd been floundering around for years looking for which Buddhist school I belonged in, or back in; but it might be anything for anyone. Skillful means.)

The book is of course very hard to understand, but Nishijima has cracked the code on the thing and lays it out in the Intro. So it's a lot more readable than it might appear at first glance. I read it in very short bursts, not because I couldn't read more, but every word means something and I have to let it absorb.

I don't believe in sacred texts. This is just the best finger pointing at the moon I've seen. The only thing that makes me worry is, what exactly did Mike Cross do, and what did he insert.... ?

 
At June 06, 2006, Blogger Drunken Monkey said...

bob.j, Mike Cross once made an addition to book 4 in the footnotes about some antigravitation theory or something like that, but it was taken out in the revised version.
Other zen masters have given us the reassurance that the revised texts are free from anything that is deviant from buddhist course.

 
At June 07, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

The Nishijima/Cross edition is very readable. I was seriously impressed by the quality of the whole thing - the footnotes on almost every page often help to clarify particular translation ambiguities.

You will find no trace of MC's ideas in the text, I think his Ego was parked for the translation.

As for Dogen...

He says his stuff reasonably clearly. He has a few hobby horses that he likes to ride esp. his views on the Kesa.

Overall I found the SBZ very readable as a Buddhist text but I found several of the chapters dealt with things that were specifically for Monks in a Monastry and not about Buddhism and several chapters dealt with Dogen's personal views on life.

I would treat the whole SBZ in the same way as I treat a Blog or anything else - some of it is Buddhism and some of it is one man's views on life in general.

My personal view is that it is always better to read an original text rather than someone else's summary of an original text and this translation is probably as close as we can get without learning japanese and chinese.

I think I've read about 3/4 of it to date.

[I own all 4 books]

 
At June 07, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

I've read the first book. I was expecting it to be a difficult scholarly read too, but was pleasantly surprised. It's very readable. Well done, Mr. Nishijima and Mr. Cross.

 
At June 07, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

I've found that most primary texts in Buddhism are difficult reads. Without a explanation by a teacher you miss quite a lot. Dogen, in particular, often has my scratching my head. Some parts, like the Genjokoan are delightful, others, like Being-Time, have me saying, "huh?" No doubt if you're Soto Zen you'll want this book or some other translation. But read it slowly a patiently and try to get an explanation from a teacher.

 
At June 07, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

jinzang:
How can you be sure your teacher's explanation is correct?

Uji in particular is a tough one.

 
At June 08, 2006, Blogger BlueWolfNine said...

i see brad is back to where he started - selling books.

 
At June 08, 2006, Blogger gniz said...

I am of the opinion that Brad got a slap on the wrist from his teacher for trash talking Mike Cross...and thus took his whole blog down....
Sounds like a guy who really has figured it out. Used to think he might know some stuff, now i think he's just a good talker...

 
At June 08, 2006, Blogger gniz said...

I am of the opinion that Brad got a slap on the wrist from his teacher for trash talking Mike Cross...and thus took his whole blog down....
Sounds like a guy who really has figured it out. Used to think he might know some stuff, now i think he's just a good talker...

 
At June 08, 2006, Blogger Drunken Monkey said...

gniz, if you came to read Brads articles in the hope of recieving knowledge on "the ulimate reality" then you had the wrong idea from the start. You can never really know, until you experience reality for yourself. Reading will only get you so far. ladila la

 
At June 08, 2006, Blogger ryunin said...

if you guys are too scared to read the literal, yet readable translation of Shobogenzo, then why don't you try the modern interpretation of SHobogenzo several chapters by Michael Luetchford. They are not some kind of HIS personal ideas about what Shobogenzo is, but just a translation taken a further step to the way a modern person think. So it is still a translation and still authentic.

here's the link http://www.dogensangha.org.uk/about.htm

and find it under Downloads and Modern Interpretation of Shobogenzo

and it is free to download

 
At June 08, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Here is the link - thanks Ryunin.

Modern Interpretations of the Shobogenzo by Michael Eido Luetchford

Looks good.

 
At June 08, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

ryunin:
Some of ML's stuff is a cleaner reading of the SBZ but I also think some of his stuff is less accurate the original Nishijima/Cross translation.

For example, I think ML's interpretation of Uji is wide of the mark and the original is accurate. [and no I cannot justify this]

I think the wat to approach the SBZ is with a completely open mind with no preconceived ideas of what it is supposed to say. Just read the words and let them sink in over time.

 
At June 09, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

That sounds like good advice Mike - just read it and let the words and images wash over you - soak up the meaning by osmosis.

However, just from my selective reading (Bendowa, Genjokoan) I suspect that there are knotty metaphors and finer points of Buddhist philosophy which will take some study and comparison between translations and differing interpretations to hope to understand.

 
At June 09, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

How can you be sure your teacher's explanation is correct?

You don't take your teacher's explanation in isolation. You use your own intelligence and compare what your teacher and what the text says. That is, you use what your teacher says to extend your understanding and not to replace it.

 
At June 09, 2006, Blogger Drunken Monkey said...

Do you guys believe that reading or learning from the Shobogenzo is essential for Buddhist practice?

Forgive my ignorance but I would think that zazen alone would be neccessary, am I not correct?
Or is it more of a hobby, to learn more of the human condition?

 
At June 09, 2006, Blogger me said...

Thanks ryunin & everyone - those modern translations look like a good place to at least get one's feet wet!

 
At June 09, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

dm:
"Forgive my ignorance but I would think that zazen alone would be neccessary, am I not correct?"

This is roughly my personal view. I read the SBZ sometimes so I can understand what people are referring to. That is all.

 
At June 09, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

OK, not quite all.

Sometimes I have read Dogen or others to provide a reference point to my own practice.

Sometimes when I read things I can say "Ah, I understand/recognise that from my own experience".

My basic premise is simple. All the people I read or speak to have one thing in common - their own meditation practice.

Even Buddha himself based the whole of Buddhism on his discoveries from his life and his meditation.

Therefore, my personal views have been quite simple. If I do what Buddha and others like him did and if Buddhism has any basis in reality (which I now know from experience that it does) then doing what they did is sufficient to discover for myself the truths that may be found.

Now clearly this is an oversimplification of reality, and I have from time to time sought out directions from different people. This is very different from relying on any particular sacred text.

For example Dogen Seems insistent that Zazen is the only vehicle into enlightenment and the only way to experience Samdahi. He makes reference in ch72 to Yogic practices and to chinese Taoist practices (I recognise both of them) and claims both are useless. This is false.

Whilst Dogen's SBZ contains a great deal of useful stuff it also I feel contains a whole bunch of ideas that are toxic. By this I mean that I think they are his own ideas either passed off as Buddism or that do not reflect fully reality. Of course this could just be selectivity on the parts of the readers.

For example, to claim that Zazen - in particular the Full Lotus position is the only vehicle is to deny the reality of both Yogic and Taoist practices. Event a superficial exposure to either practices and the rich literature surrounding both would clearly lead to an understanding that they were leading to the same place and that the authors had similar experiences.

Another classic book is the Tibetan Book of The Dead. Some of the views in here are wildly different from Dogen and yet some of the chapters in it are far clearer about emptiness and direct perception than much of Dogen's work (Uji is perhaps a highlight).

Dogen is a little vauge about Waking Up to say the least (and I suspect that is not a bad thing), and yet if you look at the TBOTD and "The Great Liberation Through Hearing" then the details of passing through Bardo and then on into Rebirth could quite easily be read as an allegorical description of what it might be like to suffer the Ego-death and to Wake up.

Through all of this verbage on my part is a single thread. If you are looking for a teacher or a book or a Google to provide you with definitive answers then I think you are looking in the wrong place. These things can act as guides at best.

The place you need to look is the last place you wish to look - inside, at yourself.

P.S. The Sangha I attend is very much of the Tibetan tradition. I still have little clue about what they talk about half the time. However, my own practice allows me to relate to their practice. Of this we have a common understanding. The rest is just words and ideas.

 
At June 09, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

OK, not quite all.

Sometimes I have read Dogen or others to provide a reference point to my own practice.

Sometimes when I read things I can say "Ah, I understand/recognise that from my own experience".

My basic premise is simple. All the people I read or speak to have one thing in common - their own meditation practice.

Even Buddha himself based the whole of Buddhism on his discoveries from his life and his meditation.

Therefore, my personal views have been quite simple. If I do what Buddha and others like him did and if Buddhism has any basis in reality (which I now know from experience that it does) then doing what they did is sufficient to discover for myself the truths that may be found.

Now clearly this is an oversimplification of reality, and I have from time to time sought out directions from different people. This is very different from relying on any particular sacred text.

For example Dogen Seems insistent that Zazen is the only vehicle into enlightenment and the only way to experience Samdahi. He makes reference in ch72 to Yogic practices and to chinese Taoist practices (I recognise both of them) and claims both are useless. This is false.

Whilst Dogen's SBZ contains a great deal of useful stuff it also I feel contains a whole bunch of ideas that are toxic. By this I mean that I think they are his own ideas either passed off as Buddism or that do not reflect fully reality. Of course this could just be selectivity on the parts of the readers.

For example, to claim that Zazen - in particular the Full Lotus position is the only vehicle is to deny the reality of both Yogic and Taoist practices. Event a superficial exposure to either practices and the rich literature surrounding both would clearly lead to an understanding that they were leading to the same place and that the authors had similar experiences.

Another classic book is the Tibetan Book of The Dead. Some of the views in here are wildly different from Dogen and yet some of the chapters in it are far clearer about emptiness and direct perception than much of Dogen's work (Uji is perhaps a highlight).

Dogen is a little vauge about Waking Up to say the least (and I suspect that is not a bad thing), and yet if you look at the TBOTD and "The Great Liberation Through Hearing" then the details of passing through Bardo and then on into Rebirth could quite easily be read as an allegorical description of what it might be like to suffer the Ego-death and to Wake up.

Through all of this verbage on my part is a single thread. If you are looking for a teacher or a book or a Google to provide you with definitive answers then I think you are looking in the wrong place. These things can act as guides at best.

The place you need to look is the last place you wish to look - inside, at yourself.

P.S. The Sangha I attend is very much of the Tibetan tradition. I still have little clue about what they talk about half the time. However, my own practice allows me to relate to their practice. Of this we have a common understanding. The rest is just words and ideas.

 
At June 10, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

Why don't you try the modern interpretation of SHobogenzo several chapters by Michael Luetchford. They are not some kind of HIS personal ideas about what Shobogenzo is, but just a translation taken a further step to the way a modern person think.

No criticism of Mr. Leutchford is intended, but I'm reminded of something Jamgon Kongtrul once said when he talked about translations from Tibetan. He said that passages that seemed difficult to understand had several layers of meaning and could only fully be understood by a person of deep realization. Trnaslations that tried to clarify these passages only presented the shallower surface meaning and lost the deeper meaning.

 
At June 11, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Again, I like these translations - the Heart Sutra in particular, but I'm inclined to agree with jinzang. An example of what he's talking about is the koan about a zen master fanning himself, which is given without any real interpretation. What does it mean? Dogen isn't just telling a story about a man fanning himself of course. IMO it is a metaphor for the question if we already have Buddha Nature (/already are 'enlightened') then why do we need to practice? The 'wind' in the metaphor is the reality that interpenetrates everything - emptiness, Buddha Nature.

 
At June 11, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Sorry, I meant to say it is found at the end of Genjokoan.

 
At June 13, 2006, Blogger earDRUM said...

I have trouble with "classic" texts when I need to understand the local metaphors and social history that the author was living in. To me, that is just poor communication. It was probably more evident to people who lived during the time it was written. But for me to pretend to understand what Dogen meant... well, I just don't.
I depend on good translators... good historians.

The Buddha didn't grow up in a vaccuum. He lived within a Hindu society that was already doing a form of zazen, and was certainly concerned with "spiritual" inquiry. I believe that he was a product of his environment... not some kind of omniscient Jesus figure that supposedly popped out of nowhere.
I imagine he struggled with difficulties, and acquired knowledge and insight by tacking his difficulties.
I imagine that he was likely more insightful than most people. But more importantly... he was able to transmit his new knowledge and intuitions to others. He was a good communicator. Communication is so important. The transmission from one person to another is crucial.
And that is why I read this blog, and Brad's blog... and yes, old zen texts. I read everything I can. I learn a lot from you people. And I learn from zazen. It is all good.

 

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