Friday, 25 April 2008

Interlude -- Redoubling a Demon's Desire

The next paragraph is one pure chunk of Chinese characters representing the original teaching of the Buddha. There is one line of seven characters whose translation, in particular, I deeply desire not to fuck up.

The reason I use the word "fuck up," is that I wish to make it clear that this demon's deep desire is not an intellectual desire; it is more akin to a hunger, a drive: it comes from a deeper part of the brain, from a deeper place in the heart, from a deeper place in the gut, from a deeper place in the solitary bollock of a non-castrated water buffalo who spent most of his 20s in excrutiating sexual frustration, in order to become able to translate Shobogenzo.

The first four of the seven characters are KEK-KA-FU-ZA, full lotus sitting; the fifth character is JIKI, which means to restore order to, to set straight, to mend, to right, to make upright; the sixth character is SHIN, heart/mind; the seventh character is, again, ZA, to sit.

That line expresses full lotus sitting, through which sitting itself orders the mind. It might be the one pivotal sentence on which the whole of Shobogenzo turns.

I deeply desire to translate the fourth paragraph in such a way as to blow the Nishijima-Cross translation out of the water, and send an old bastard to his grave a broken man.

The supreme, deep, and subtle sitting practise of the Buddha

In millions of aeons is hard to meet.

I now am reading about it, and I might be able to make it my own.

I desire to understand what [the fuck] the Buddha really meant.


Anonymous said...


How about "Full lotus sitting repairs the spirit. Sit!"

That then reflects what Master Dogen later wrote about "naturally becoming one piece".

Personally, I'd take the sex over the shobogenzo....

Mike Cross said...

Totally against all my expectations, your suggested translation is not at all bad, and neither is your interpretation.

About sex vs Shobogenzo, the grass always tends to be greener on the other side.

Having said that, the object of my raging youthful desire of yesteryear will be 50 next November, whereas the intention of this chapter of Shobogenzo jumps out off the page with vivacity that is totally undimmed by age.

google said...

I think that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me. I'm a bit taken aback!!

I wanted to use 'heal' rather than 'repair' since it was more suggestive of a natural process but didn't know if it was too abusive of the chinese.

Mike Cross said...

Translating a sutra is akin to golf or archery in the sense that the criterion is simply how close you are to the target -- nothing personal, not a question of being judged nicely.

"The Buddha taught his disciples full lotus sitting -- sitting that heals the spirit."

That would not be too far from the target, except that the original character read as JIKI has, for me, more a sense of righting in the sense of straightness, uprightness. So the connotation may be more concrete and direct than "healing."