Saturday, 3 May 2008

Translated by Who?

My process of reading Shobogenzo in the original Japanese was initiated, guided, nurtured, and financially supported by Gudo Nishijima. When he proposed that our arrangement should be, in his words, "fifty : fifty," I agreed with his proposal.

But in the Nishijima-Cross translation published from 1994-98, the person who translated Shobogenzo from Japanese into English was me. The process took place inside my brain. The only person who can know this as a fact is me, and I know it as a fact, absolutely.

This fact seems to have been impossible for Gudo to understand. His experience was that a translation into English took place inside his brain, and he was always unable or unwilling to see that what was taking place in my brain was a different translation.

Did it matter that I was unable to cause Gudo to see the truth? Yes, it did. Because out of his state of denial, terribly wrong actions on his part have followed.

The Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo, as a real process of reading words in one language and converting them into another, took place in my brain. I am sorry, but that is the truth. Nishijima didn't do it with the assistance of Cross. Cross did it with the assistance of Nishijima.

When I clicked on the link to on Dogen Sangha Blog, I was led to the following review of the Nishijima-Cross translation, by Brad Warner:

This English translation of Shobogenzo is the best there ever was or will be. Not only does Gudo Nishijima know his stuff when translating ancient Japanese to English (with invaluable assistance from student Chodo Cross who makes the prose clear and easy to read without sacrificing a bit of the original), he has been living the message of Shobogenzo for more than six decades.

I think that Brad Warner is a very political animal, a kind of spin doctor, a PR man. Judging from this review, there may be a tendency in him to twist the truth out of political motives. Not knowing the truth, he has written here, as if he knows, just what Gudo would like to read.

I, on the contrary, have a tendency to write precisely what Gudo does not want to read, and to tell him precisely what he does not want to hear, which is the truth.

In attempting to clarify what Master Dogen wrote about mental sitting as opposed to physical sitting, and physical sitting as opposed to mental sitting, Gudo fell back on his theory of the autonomic nervous system, and thereby missed the target. In taking people by the chin and pulling the chin inches back into the neck, he led me and others woefully astray in our sitting practice. In making changes to Shobogenzo Book 3 without my agreement, he broke the fundamental rule of our fifty-fifty partnership. Brad says that Gudo has been living the central message of Shobogenzo for sixty years. I say that he has been, out of the best of intentions, perverting it -- turning the truth into its opposite.

How am I able to say these things? Because my lifeblood is nothing but the lifeblood of the founding ancestor, and the lifeblood of the founding ancestor is nothing but my lifeblood. Because, notwithstanding my degree in Accounting & Financial Management from Sheffield University, 25 years of full lotus sitting have left me, as I approach the age of 50, more or less jobless, out of work, unemployed, with no professional position or career to speak of, with no status to lose. Not even earning a breadwinner's wage, I rely on my wife's income as swimming teacher. In many ways I have become more and more useless, a disheartened waster. And yet, Master Dogen is telling me unequivocally that my lifeblood is the lifeblood of Bodhidharma, and Bodhidharma's lifeblood is mine. If that really is so, the virtue of full lotus sitting really is totally beyond my capacity to fathom it.

Gudo has responded to the respective efforts of Brad and me by nominating the Venerable Bradley as his successor and slandering me, Mr. Mike Cross, as a non-Buddhist. For a long time, I remained in denial about what was going on, seeing it as possibly some kind of test of my loyalty.

But no, fuck that. Wishing to be a loyal servant of a true Buddhist Patriarch is just the seed of trying to be right.

The truth that Gudo does not want to be heard, especially by himself, is that the process of translating Shobogenzo from Japanese into English, which was initiated by him, was done by me.

In that regard, there is no difference between the translation that we published from 1994-1998, and the one I am about to post on this blog now. They both took place, for better or for worse, inside my brain.

Still, to go back to my opening statement, my process of reading Shobogenzo in the original Japanese was initiated, guided, nurtured, and financially supported by Gudo Nishijima. That is not me trying to be loyal. That is just the glaring, undeniable truth. So if Gudo wishes me to keep his name before mine, and let me call what I am about to post up the Nishijima-Cross translation (revised 2008 version), then all he has to do is let me know, on his blog or on this blog.

If that is what he wants, he needs to clarify his wish in public, so that there is no legal ambiguity about it. He needs to make a public retraction of what he and his legal adviser James Cohen told me three years ago, that I was not authorized to publish any translation in Gudo's name, and that I should rather publish my own translation "based on AT theory" just in my own name.

And Gudo needs to make this clarification right now, right this fucking minute. Otherwise, as far as I am concerned, he can fuck off and I will follow the example he (along with Michael Luetchford) has already set, and "go ahead by myself."

This is not a threat. It is more akin to the state of a cat that is poised to finish off a mouse. I am letting Gudo know what I am now totally ready to do -- unless he acts, NOW.

1 comment:

gniz said...
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