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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
67 fall 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly version comes from my practice lineage and I have collaborated with him on this text myself, so I make no claim to objectivity, though I hope to be fair in my assessment. Well known in Ameri- can Zen circles (he has lived in America since the 1960s), Tanahashi is a callig- rapher, artist, peace activist, and world traveler, as well as a Dogen scholar. He made, in the early sixties, the first translation of Dogen’s Shobogenzo from ancient to modern Japanese, and was, with Robert Aitken, the first translator of Dogen into English—they translated “Genjokoan” in 1965. Since then he has been steadily refining and extending his English Dogen, with the help of thirty- two translators, almost all of whom are active American Zen teachers—most, but not all, in the Suzuki Roshi lineage of the San Francisco Zen Center. This new, complete edition collects work from Tanahashi’s previously pub- lished Dogen translations and adds to it, gathering all the fascicles of Shobogenzo into one chronological text. Over the generations in Japan there have been sev- eral versions of Shobogenzo. As a result, none of the English versions presents the fascicles in the same order, which is a When genuine trust arises, practice and study with a teacher. If it does not, wait for a while. It is regrettable if you have not received the beneficence of the buddhadharma. Also, what do you understand of the merit attained by read- ing sutras, chanting buddha’s name, and so on? It is futile to think that just moving the tongue and making a sound is meritorious Buddhist activity. If you regard these as the bud- dhadharma, it will be farther and farther away. Actually, the meaning of studying sutras is that if you understand and follow the rules of practice for sudden or gradual realization taught by the Buddha, you will unmistak- ably attain enlightenment. In studying sutras you should not expend thoughts in the vain hope that they will be helpful for attaining realization. To attempt to reach the buddha way by chanting buddha’s name thousands of times is like foolishly trying to go south while heading north, or to fit a square peg into a round hole. To be consumed with words and letters while ignorant of the on this version. While he had some edi- torial help from his fellow monastics at Shasta Abbey, the translation is his own, a tremendous feat in itself. Rev. Nearing’s clear translation reflects his passionate Soto Zen faith, cultivated in the Jiyu Kennett Roshi lineage and Sojiji Zen style. The clarity, however, might be a bit misleading, since I am not so sure that the original is as definite as he some- times makes it out to be. Also, his version reads a bit piously, reflecting the style of his lineage (obviously every translation of Shobogenzo reflects a Dogen whose tone and flavor of expression resonates with the values and styles of the particular lineage the translator comes from). His use of the word “trainee” in his subtitle tips you off that his approach empha- sizes the doctrinal meaning of the text as it relates to students practicing Zen. Like Nishijima, Nearing provides a brief introduction and explanation to each fas- cicle, however in this case emphasizing practice points. He is not much interested in the philosophical or poetic texture of the text, though Shobogenzo is prized for these qualities. Finally, we come to the present text. First, I must disclose that Kaz Tanahashi’s bit cumbersome when you are trying to make comparisons. The virtue of this text is chiefly that Tanahashi and his associate editor, the poet and Zen teacher Peter Levitt, have taken pains to preserve the poetic and philosophical depths of Dogen’s writ- ing. While clarity in English is of course a primary consideration, it never takes precedence over the tone and flavor of the original, which often seems to be less interested in understandable com- munication than in presenting nuance, ambiguity, and wonder. While the text reads as perfectly solid English, it also, oddly, retains a Japanese inflection, as if you were somehow hearing Dogen’s original voice through the differences in language and culture. The text includes several useful appendices containing, among other things, biographical mate- rial as it relates to the fascicles as well as an extensive glossary that provides, as does Nishijima, many of the original Japanese characters. However, in many cases Tanahashi adds, as Nishijima does not, the literal meaning of these char- acters, so that layers of poetic nuance available in the Japanese can be brought forth. way of practice is like a physician forgetting how to prescribe medicine; what use can it be? People who chant all the time are just like frogs croaking day and night in spring fields; their effort will be of no use whatsoever. Even worse off are those deluded by fame and gain who cannot give up such practices, because their acquisitiveness is so deep. Such people existed in the past; are there not even more today? What a pity, indeed! Just understand that when a master who has attained the way with a clear mind authentically transmits to a student who has merged with realization, then the wondrous dharma of the Seven Original Buddhas, in its essence, is actualized and maintained. This cannot be known by those who study words. Therefore, set aside your doubt, practice zazen under an authen- tic teacher, and actualize buddhas’ receptive samadhi. From Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi. Forthcoming in September from Shambhala Publications.