Thursday, 22 May 2008

Non-Establishment of the Bodhi-Mind

The Nishijima-Cross translation says, "Even if their form is humble, those who establish this mind are already the guiding teachers of all living beings."

But "establish" is completely the wrong word. It has connotations of stability, fixity. Nishijima selected that word, "establish," and Cross failed to boot the word into touch, into Row Z, where it belongs.

Brad Warner has written that the Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo is the best that there will ever be. On what basis does Brad make a comment like that, other than knowing that it might be music to the ears of Gudo Nishijima? That bit of Bradley Warner bullshit might be symptomatic of the same lack of clarity, the same rigidity of body and mind, that led Nishijima to select the word "establish" and that led Cross not to boot the word "establish" into Row Z.

"The Establishment of the Bodhi-Mind" might be the worst translation of HOTSU-BODAISHIN that there will ever be.

The original word, OKOSU in Japanese, would better have been translated as "rouse" -- a word that seems to be favoured by translators of ancient Pali texts, like the one recently quoted in Peter Clothier's blog.

But I would like to go further still in the direction of non-Buddhist dynamism and directness.

I would like to suggest the image of a grubby old biker who kick-starts a machine so that, grimy though the old biker may be, and old and rusty though the bike may be, by kick-starting the bike into action, the grubby old biker may lead a pack of millions to their true destination ....

"Crude in appearance though he may be, because he kick-starts this mind into action, he is the guiding teacher of all living beings."

When the old biker climbs back on his bike and kick-starts his old machine, what is established?

Nothing is established. Sweet FA is established. But something, for a while, is kick-started into action.

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