Friday, October 19, 2007

SHOSHIN-TANZA (4): Just Sit Upright

What these words SHOSHIN-TANZA can mean to me when I am actually sitting in the full lotus posture, on a good day, is the simplest thing in the world: Just sit upright.

The more I worry about translating those words perfectly into English, the more problematic they become.

Which phase do they belong to?

Bodily sitting in the full lotus posture?
Mentally sitting in the full lotus posture?
Sitting in the full lotus posture as body and mind dropping off?

Does SHOSHIN mean to straighten up the body on the basis of the feeling and the idea of straightness? Or does SHOSHIN mean to redeem the body from the realm of untrustworthy feelings and illusory ideas?

I take pride in my translation work. My translation work is my service to others, my rent on earth. But translation work stimulates questions. Words whose meaning was more simple before suddenly become problematic. And the stronger my desire to solve the problem, the more problematic the problem is.

When I wake up in the morning and sit in lotus, however, before I put on my translator's head, the meaning of SHOSHIN-TANZA is not so problematic. It is simply an exhortation to sit upright -- not deviating from the vertical direction, either leftwards or rightwards, either forwards or backwards. A child of three can understand it.

The phrase EKOHENSHO no TAIHO poses similar problems. It is a key phrase in Fukan-zazengi, and I love it. When I come to translate it, I struggle. But what it means in practice is perfectly simple: stop worrying about words, and learn the backward step of turning light around.


Blogger Jordan said...


When ever I see this line:

learn the backward step of turning light around.

I tend to think, a mirror turns light around quite well.

3:40 AM  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Nice one, Jordan. Nice one indeed.

7:57 AM  

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