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Buddhadharma : Spring 2017
spring 2 0 1 7 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 67 long time ago, I was sitting my first retreat at the Cambridge Zen Center, which was, in those early years, located in a small house in Allston, Mas- sachusetts. The teacher was Zen Master Seung Sahn, early in his long career of spreading Korean Soen teach- ing throughout the world. In my first interview, he asked a question. I couldn’t answer it. In my second interview, he asked the same question. I knew the answer he wanted, but it felt fake so I didn’t give it. In the third interview, he asked the same question. I knew the answer he wanted, but I didn’t give it, cry- ing out, “That’s your answer, not my answer!” You’d think that, as a math professor (which I was at the time), I’d know better. Imagine a cal- culus student refusing to say that the derivative of sin(x) is cos(x) because “That’s your answer, not my answer!” But, of course, Zen could not possibly be like calculus. Having read Hesse and Watts and Kerouac and Ginsberg, I was convinced that Zen was about extreme individualism, that Zen masters were extreme iconoclasts, that the inner journey was exactly that: inner, isolated, the lone heroine attaining a cosmic vision that would shatter her world and make it whole. Now consider the following rather anti- iconoclastic statement that, in my youth, I would never have imagined to have anything to do with Zen: “Preaching of the dharma depends on the examination of the ancients. Words are the shoots of this mind, so how can you leave it up to your conjectures/judgment?” This is not an anti-Zen statement by some stuffy anti-Zen cleric. It was written by the great sixteenth-century Korean master So Sahn Hyu Jong and is a self-referential commentary on the method of his manual of monastic training—still used today in Korean training temples—and known in this country under the titles Mirror of Zen (translated by the American monk Hyon Gak) and Handbook of Zen Practice (translated by John Jorgensen). Mirror of Zen has been a spiritual lodestar for me. Ever since it appeared in 2006 I have taken it with me on long solo retreats, a reliable compan- ion along with Chinul and Nagarjuna to shake me out of whatever self-absorbed delusion I’d fallen into. It’s a slim book; I’ve easily read it over twenty times. But away from retreats, the semi-scholar in me was frustrated. Mirror of Zen is organized into very short chapters (many less than a page), each one supposedly beginning with a quote, fol- lowed by a usually brief commentary by So Sahn and sometimes even a short poem by him. But the quotes aren’t identified. I was told that nobody knew where they came from. Then, in 2015, John Jorgensen’s Handbook of Zen version came out, and it turned out that nearly every phrase and every sentence—even the poems—came from somewhere else. The entire book was a collage. In some places, even the sentences were a composite of phrases There Is No Author when Judy roitman learned her favorite dharma text was actually a patchwork of phrases and poems lifted from other sources, she started looking into the authorship of Buddhist texts. what she found surprised her. text weaViNgS | elena nuez eleNaNUez|bicocacolors.com