Wednesday, 9 April 2008

KEKKAFUZA: Full Lotus Sitting

In the previous post, I suggested as a translation:
"To tread over the heads of those who are off the way, demons ... is to practise full lotus sitting."

But how about:
"Treading on heads of off-wayers, demons... is full lotus sitting."?

That would be a saving of 19-11 = 8 words.

The new improved translation I came up with less than a week ago, on further consideration, might have been just another mistake. Today's effort is bound to be another mistake. But there is a direction inherent in these efforts/mistakes -- to seek out the translation which is more literal, more direct, and more dynamic.

Three years ago, Gudo Nishijima sent me an email, cc-d to his legal adviser James Cohen, in which he recommended me to follow the example of Michael Luetchford and publish my own independent translation of Shobogenzo -- "based on AT theory."

That proposal was totally unjust and totally unreasonable. The existing Nishijima-Cross translation is already my own translation, just as much as it is his translation.

The Nishijima-Cross translation was something valuable, a valuable process that was poisoned in 1997. Have I finished grieving yet for the loss of that process? Yesterday I thought maybe I had. But as I sit at this laptop again this morning, a nagging aching in my stomach indicates otherwise.

Is whatever it is that causes my stomach to throb only the suppressed anger of Mr Wrong?

The Nishijima-Cross translation was not so much a thing as a 3-way dynamic, involving the source text itself, Gudo's effort to interpret/translate it, and my effort to understand/translate it.

I never saw it as my job to interpret, on the basis of what Gudo calls "AT theory," or on any other basis. Interpretation was Gudo's area. My job was, as far as possible, to purge the source text of interpretation. Interpretation, as I saw it, was for the footnotes. My task was to let Master Dogen himself speak for himself.

Sometimes I failed in this task because of Gudo's lack of understanding -- for example his lack of understanding of the literal meaning of MIMI TO KATA TO TAISESHIMEN, causing opposition between ears and shoulders.

Sometimes I failed because of our mutual inability to hit the target, not for want of trying -- as in the case of BUTSUKOJO NO JI, the matter of buddha ascending beyond [buddha].

But mostly I failed because the process of translation involves thousands and thousands of decisions on how to translate individual words, and how to structure individual sentences, and many of the decisions I took, inevitably, were wrong. Gudo left ZAZEN, "sitting-zen," untranslated as Zazen. So did I. That was my mistake. Gudo translated BUSSO as "Buddhist patriarchs" or "the Buddhist Patriarch" I should have changed it into buddha-ancestors or the Buddha-Ancestor, but I didn't. And so on.

The mistakes I have made in the Shobogenzo translation process have been too numerous to list. But in my heart I know full well that my effort, to serve Master Dogen, has been true from beginning to end. Gudo's proposal that I should make another translation "on the basis of AT theory" slanders me, and I dare say slanders not only me.

What to do now, or not to do, with regard to the Shobogenzo translation?

(1) Leave the Nishijima-Cross translation as it is.
(2) Revise the Nishijima-Cross translation, to make it more literal, more dynamic, more direct, and publish that, as the Nishijima-Cross translation.
(3) Publish the Mike Cross translation.

The point of the emails I received from Gudo and Cohen three years ago was to make it clear that I was not authorized to take the second option. I was not authorized to revise the Nishijima-Cross translation "on the basis of AT theory."

So what then is to prevent me from taking option (3)?

The answer to that is I do not wish, never in a thousand years, to follow the treacherous example of Bodhirucci Sanzo.

I have been in France for three weeks now, mainly sitting. After three weeks of bodily sitting and mental sitting -- with not much in the way of body and mind dropping off -- there were a couple of hours yesterday evening in which I did seem to become a target that was hit. Last night, in replying to an email from an Alexander colleague, I wrote:

The weather has been a bit miserable, but today we were able to sit outside, listening to the birds singing all over the place, spine seeming to lengthen like an antenna. It seems to me a long time since I had an experience like that -- maybe something akin to what has been called in the Tomatis work "an auditory opening." (Either that or another instance of self-delusion courtesy of faulty sensory appreciation.)

I slept very well last night -- again, for the first time in a long time. And while sitting this morning I noticed that I wasn't suffering stomach pain. I thought to myself that maybe this finally signalled the end of my bereavement process? Maybe my full lotus sitting has trodden on the head of the demon, finally, once and for all?

But no, when I engage in that kind of wishful thinking, it is just the demon who is treading on my head.

People like Jeremy Pearson who have often exhorted me to "move on" do not understand that in 1997, when the Luetchfords intervened, when Gudo over-reacted on the basis of false suspicions, and when Jeremy himself failed to do the job I had entrusted to him, what was broken then was not only my heart. Something was violated then other than only me.

In chapter 72, Zanmai-o-zanmai, Master Dogen writes the shocking statement that sitting is the Buddha-Dharma and the Buddha-Dharma is sitting. If I didn't doubt Master Dogen's teaching, I might not doubt that my own effort for these past 25 years or so has just been the Buddha-Dharma itself, which has been violated.

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