Sunday, November 18, 2007


"How could it borrow from practice and experience?"

"Upon investigation, um, enlightenment roundly pervades: how could it borrow from practice and experience?"

Even when going for a literal translation, there is not a definitive one that deserves to be set in stone. And even less can there be a definitive explanation of the meaning of each sentence.

That is partly why I have gone through the original version of Fukan-zazengi character by character on my webpage, and I would encourage anybody who is interested enough to read this blog, to follow the link on the right of the page and start the process of getting Fukan-zazengi straight from the horse's mouth.

If as a result of that process, you would like to publish on this blog your own translation or interpretation of any line, or any section, of Fukan-zazengi, then please be my guest.

But if I write here what the above characters are saying to me, on this particularly auspicious morning, they are saying what Marjory Barlow said the first time I heard her speak:

This work, this business of working on the self, is the most serious thing in the world. But you mustn't take it seriously.

Every day for the last 25 years when I wake up in the morning I have woken up with the idea already there in the back of my mind that the most important thing today is my own sitting-practice -- as if everything in the Universe depended on it. In a sense, everything does. But in another sense my own anxious self-consciousness about the great importance of my own practice, is laughable. I am no different from the teenager I was on the bus, struggling through body-building, affected Brummie accent, and various other contrivances, to rise above his own self-conscious insecurity... "There goes that wanker again."

Master Dogen writes that sitting-zen is the practice and experience that gets to the bottom of the Buddha's enlightenment (BODAI O GUJIN SURU NO SHUSHO NARI).

A problem arises in my habitual reaction to that idea. Even though I don't know what enlightenment is, I believe in the Buddha's enlightenment as a historical fact and I want to get it myself, without counting the cost. As sitting-zen is the practice and experience that penetrates the Buddha's enlightenment, and the only person whose sitting-zen I can practice and experience is my own, my own practice and experience of sitting-zen must be the most important thing there is.

The reasoning here is not at fault. The reasoning is impeccable. The fault, the flaw, the taintedness, lies in my habitual reaction to an idea. The fault lies in the endgaining. The fault lies in my habitual attitude of unstinting grim determination to solve a problem.

If I wake up in the morning and succeed in inhibiting my self-important idea, and as a result go back to sleep until 9 o'clock, thereby losing time that could have been devoted to the practice and experience of sitting-zen, it is not the end of the world.


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