Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Making of Buddhist Modernism


I recently bought a book called The Making of Buddhist Modernism by David McMahan. It's a pretty neat book about the way Buddhism has been transformed and "Westernized." The author also contends that this process of Westernization is not confined to Americans and Europeans who have misinterpreted Buddhism through their own cultural conditioning. It also includes Asians who have interpreted Buddhism according to their modern Westernized points of view. He cites DT Suzuki, Thich Naht Hahn, the 14th Dalai Lama and others as good examples of Asians who have Westernized Buddhism. He doesn't seem to think this is a bad thing. He feels that we Westerners tend to accept what we learn of Buddhism as being present in its most ancient sources. But he questions whether that's true.

I've said several times that I feel like Buddhism is sort of like advanced physics. Albert Einstein pioneered so much of advanced physics it might be considered appropriate to call it "Einsteinism." But if we did that we would not want to stop all of advanced physics at the point of Albert Einstein's death and say anything that came after is not legitimate.

Same with Buddhism. Buddha never claimed to be a prophet or messiah. So to say Buddhism stops with the death of the historical Buddha would be a grave misunderstanding of Buddhism. Westernization and modernization of Buddhism is inevitable and helpful.

McMahan cites a passage by Jay Garfield regarding translation. Garfield says:

"When we translate, we transform in all of the following ways: we replace terms and phrases with particular sets of resonances in their source language with terms and phrases with very different resonances in the target language; we disambiguate ambiguous terms, and introduce new ambiguities; we interpret, or fix particular interpretations of texts in virtue of the use of theoretically loaded expressions in our target language; we take a text that is to some extent esoteric and render it exoteric simply by freeing the target language reader to approach the text without a teacher; we shift the context in which a text is read and used."

I was going over the galleys of Nishijima Roshi's translation of Nagarjuna's Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. It's due out in about a month. In the translation, Nishijima Roshi insists upon translating the Sanskrit word shunyata as "the balanced state."

Everybody knows that the word shunyata means "emptiness." This is the accepted translation of shunyata and has been for many years. Nishijima himself is well aware of this. But he also felt that the word "emptiness" in English really did not convey what Nagarjuna was talking about when he used the word shunyata.

McMahan talks about the way the Sanskrit word moksha is translated as "freedom." This is an accepted and approved way of translating the word. But moksha means, in McMahan's words, "liberation from rebirth in samsara as an embodied being, as well as liberation from destructive mental states (klesas), craving, hatred, and delusion and from the suffering (dukha) they produce."

On the other hand, the word "freedom" conveys to Western readers such things as, "individual freedom, creative freedom, freedom of choice, freedom from oppression, freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom from neuroses, free to be me — let freedom ring" and so on. "Freedom" is a proper translation of moksha. But it means something very different from moksha.

"Balanced state" is an improper translation of shunyata. No doubt about it. But it may convey more of the meaning of shunyata than the word "emptiness" is able to. That was Nishijima's feeling anyway.

The translation is idiosyncratic. It does not match other English translations. But there are several more standard versions easily available to anyone who wants them. There is no reason for yet another one of those.

People worry themselves far too much about the Westernization and modernization of Buddhism. It's nice to have faithful versions of ancient texts. But we also have to be aware that even the most faithful versions we can produce are not faithful. Even if we read the texts in their original languages, we come from such a different place culturally we still won't be able to get what the people who wrote them meant exactly. Even the people who read those texts during the authors' lifetimes may not have fully understood what their writers meant.

It's hopeless!

Good luck.


***


Here are some helpful examples from the Nishijima text (slightly out of order from how they will appear in print):

Chaoter 4, Verse 8

vigrahe ya˙ parīhåram krte sunyatayå vadet
sarvam tasyåparihrtam samam sådhyena jåyate

* vigraha: m. keeping apart or asunder, isolation; division; independence. parīhåra: m. avoiding, shunning, caution; disrespect. kr: to do, make, perform, accomplish, cause, effect, prepare. sunyatayå: I. of sunyatå. sunyatå: f. emptiness, loneliness, desolateness; absence of mind, distraction. vadet: 3rd pers. opt. 1st conj. of vad. vad: P. Å. to speak, say, utter. parihrta: mfn. shunned, avoided; abandoned, quitted; taken, seized; n. what has been wrapped round or put on. sama: mfn. (connected with sa and with sama and samåna) any, every. sådhya: mfn. to be subdued or mastered or won or managed. jåyate: jan: to generate, beget, produce, create, cause.

[When one exists independently, one can keep one’s attentive attitude and can speak from the balanced state.
In actual situations although nothing is shunned, all things and phenomena can manifest themselves in the state of regulation.]

--- If a person can live in the state of being truly independent, that person naturally prefers to keep an attentive attitude and can speak of everything in a stable manner. We cannot shun anything. Our lives are such that we are obliged to accept everything that occurs, whether we like it or not. Yet if we can maintain this truly independent attitude, it is possible for us to accept our circumstances in a balanced and regulated way.

The real universe should manifest itself clearly. If it were impossible for the real universe to manifest itself clearly, then the real universe could never become clear at all. The reason that the real universe does not seem to manifest itself clearly, comes from the unbalanced situation of our autonomic nervous system.

I am not a medical doctor or neurologist. But as a Buddhist teacher I value the work of these scientists. Their findings and theories are often useful in helping to clarify Buddhist philosophy and make it comprehensible to today’s audiences by removing the air of mysticism that has surrounded these teachings for far too long. I have come to believe that what has been called satori or “enlightenment” by Buddhist masters of the past can be expressed in more contemporary terms as the balance of the autonomic nervous system.

One does not need to be a scientist or a physician in order to understand the basics of scientific theory or the basics of physiology. These days the basics of science and physiology are part of the common framework of human thought and understanding. Nor must one be a scientist of physician to use these terms. I am not trying to advance some new theory of science here. I am only using the theories science has already provided as a means of expressing Buddhist philosophy in more contemporary terms.

Science tells us that the human autonomic nervous system consists of two parts. These are called the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. These two nervous systems, they say, work in opposition to one another. It is my belief that the workings of the sympathetic nervous system are the true basis for the philosophy we call materialism while the workings of the parasympathetic nervous system are the fundamental basis for the philosophy we call idealism or spirituality. When the sympathetic nervous system is in ascendancy we tend to feel materialistic. We become more involved with body than with mind. When the parasympathetic nervous system is stronger we feel spiritual. Our mind becomes clearer but we lose contact with our body.

The practice of zazen brings the two nervous systems into balance, allowing each one to function at equal strength. When this occurs there is what Master Dogen called “dropping off body and mind.”

We will return to this idea again and again throughout the commentary, and I hope it will become clearer as we go along. For now we can just note that if we were to use our contemporary terminology, Nagarjuna appears to me to be saying here that until the autonomic nervous becomes balanced, it is impossible for the real universe to become clear. ---

133 comments:

Anonymous said...

one baby! been a while...

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.

Korey said...

Brad, I think I attained The Sacred Truth last night and reached The Supreme Enlioghtenment.

I had this very bizarre feeling where I thought may head was going to pop off and I've decided it must have something to do with being Enlightened.

Can you confirm this?

Anonymous said...

This is a good topic for conversation. [And thanks for that very meaningful contribution, Seagal(?)]

Hopefully Mr. Chadwick will stick around and pitch in.

Most of the time I want only the very, very, very core ideas and teachings to be discussed, but I suppose if you strip away too much you lose the identity of Buddhism. Eastern, Western, whatever.... just get to the core if you can, that which is not subject to too much misinterpretation.

Uh.... right, Seagal?

Anonymous said...

here's what I put on Mike's blog:

" Mike, the human nervous system is
far too complex for a balance
between cholinergic and adrenergic
inputs to be a significant
representation of some process like
"enlightenment" Not only is this
nonsense, but it makes one question
the mental status of the originator
Perhaps it was meant as a comical
metaphor. "

As the use of the word Tao is not
the true Tao, words representing
the " mystical yet concrete state "
takes us further away from that
state. We can spend the rest of our
existence wandering through word
mazes. If Gudo's intent is to
circumvent talking, thinking and
speculating, fine.

Robert Jarrell said...

The word is 'cites'.

Anonymous said...

"The word is 'cites'."

Shut the fuck up.

EL Rey del Cool said...

Wouldn't there be an inherent risk of missdirecting buddhism by coupling it with passing ideas and modern scientific interpretations of how the body and the world work?

specially when those doing the translation are not physicians; I could only begin to see it done correctly by buddhist medics.

otherwise it would be just adding a new layer of superstition to the teaching.

I have also seen like in the "esoteric" and "new age" circles a misappropriation of science, begetting such flawed concepts such as "quantum emotionality" which are based in simplified, irrational and plainly dumb interpretations of science

even then, science is always changing and growing and recanting, what would have happened if this had been done with 19th century science? buddhism would have been discarded along the scientific theories it merged with.

Even when you can't know the original meanings of the witings, you can practice and by the wonderful opportunity that is lineage learning, you can have a sense of what it meant, and technology ans science offer us proximity ro the teachers, we can see parallels to science in practice, and believe them, but to fuse them is dating them, why do that when with every advancement we find ourself "closest" (an approximation that hopefully and probably will never end) to a material, scientific backing of the experience.

this distance between the text and the culture has meant that today, as always, buddhism is fresh and thriving

Anonymous said...

So far, only Seagal has made a lick of sense in this comments section.

Anonymous said...

Autonomic nervous system blah blah blah. We could only expect such pseudo scientific rigmarole from somebody who'd never actually experienced the truth. One does not experience the balanced state in terms of physiology. The truth is just the truth as crisp and clean as biting into an apple. Trying to break down that truth into scientic phraseology is about as worthless a pursuit as you can possibly find in the study of buddhism. Honestly, I'd rather listen to my high school gym teacher talk about the health benefits of transcendental meditation than listen to this bullshit. Hey Roshi Nishijima, you're no zen master, you're just another fraud with a title who's marketing his own brand of buddhism. You have taught Brad very well in that regard. I hope you give him inka some day.

Brad Warner said...

Anonymous at 11:06 AM
In the Soto tradition we do not use the word "inka." But the word "shiho" has approximately the same meaning. Nishijima Roshi gave me that around ten years ago.

Anonymous said...

Case closed then.

Brad Warner said...

I wonder why some people feel so threatened by Nishijima's use of scientific terms. I think perhaps their fear goes something like this:

They believe that the mystical state of enlightenment is something beyond the physical. It exists in another realm. If it is reduced to physical terms, then it means there is no extra-physical realm in which enlightenment takes place.

At least my own resistance to his use of these words was something like that. But I don't think this fear is warranted.

It is a fear based on the assumption that the physical realm is the realm of the mundane, that we know the physical realm and that nothing spiritual could happen here. This assumption underlies most religious thinking.

Actually the fact that there is a physical realm at all is incredibly amazing. Even if the experience of enlightenment could be explained in terms of the "merely" physical, this would not make it any less amazing.

Brad Warner said...

Someone said they put the following on Mike's blog:

" Mike, the human nervous system is
far too complex for a balance
between cholinergic and adrenergic
inputs to be a significant
representation of some process like
"enlightenment" Not only is this
nonsense, but it makes one question
the mental status of the originator
Perhaps it was meant as a comical
metaphor. "

I wonder... what do you imagine "enlightenment" to be? It may be far simpler than the image you've created.

Brad Warner said...

El Ray del Cool Said:

Even when you can't know the original meanings of the witings, you can practice and by the wonderful opportunity that is lineage learning, you can have a sense of what it meant, and technology and science offer us proximity to the teachers, we can see parallels to science in practice, and believe them, but to fuse them is dating them. Why do that when with every advancement we find ourself "closest" (an approximation that hopefully and probably will never end) to a material, scientific backing of the experience?

One difference between anonymous posters and those who sign even obviously made up names is that the ones with names always say things that are far more intelligent.

This, El Ray, is a very good point. I often wish Nishijima would drop all the nervous system stuff. But he won't. So that's that.

Maybe it's not such a bad thing to be dated. Ancient Buddhist stuff seems pretty dated to me sometimes.

I really believe Nishijima's most important intention in using scientific terms is to try and de-mystify the experience. This, as you can see in some of the anonymous comments, upsets some people. That's often necessary.

But it's hard to deal with upset people. So most of us steer clear of upsetting anyone.

Brad Warner said...

Korey said:

Brad, I think I attained The Sacred Truth last night and reached The Supreme Enlioghtenment.

I had this very bizarre feeling where I thought may head was going to pop off and I've decided it must have something to do with being Enlightened.

Can you confirm this?


At first I assumed this was a joke. But maybe it's not. In either case the answer is no. I cannot confirm your enlightenment. Only you can do that. If you seek someone's confirmation that is a clear indication that what you've experienced is not enlightenment.

Brad Warner said...

And who is "Mike" anyway?

anon #108 said...

Hi 11.06am,

Here's a completely different view of what zazen is all about:

"Oneness with the Universe.

When we are practicing Zazen, not only can we say that body-and-mind are one; we are also sitting in the state where there is no distinction between ourselves and the external circumstances — the world around us. Most people have at some time experienced this simple feeling of oneness with everything, and in Zazen we can notice that it is not just a feeling, but the actual state of things in the present moment. When we are sitting in Zazen we are one with the Universe, and the state includes all things and phenomena. In that sense, although we are experiencing the state, we cannot grasp it intellectually. We cannot describe it completely. We call the state “ineffable,” or “dharma,” or “truth,” or “reality.” But even these words are inadequate to describe the simple and original state that we return to in Zazen."


But wait a minute! That paragraph comes from a little book called -

Introduction to Buddhism and the Practice of Zazen;

- subtitled 'The Teachings of Gudo Nishijima Roshi!!

Zazen seen as "Balance of the Autonomic Nervous System" is one view - the scientific/materialistic view - of zazen supposed by Gudo. There are three others. The paragraph above is a view of zazen from his fourth viewpoint. Gudo has also called this approach "Three Philosophies and One Reality".

I've found the four views a really useful - even true - idea. There are, of course, many other ways of parsing/describing our experience, Buddhist and non-Buddhist. They may all have something to offer.

Anonymous said...

Brad, it's not the use of
scientific terms, it's the
inappropriate use of simplistic,
scientific terms. It puts your
lineage into question. Neural
physiologists and Buddhist
scholars will shred this dogma.

Anonymous said...

I assumed that "Mike" was "Mr. Angry". Did I make an "ass" of "u" and "me"?

"One difference between anonymous posters and those who sign even obviously made up names is that the ones with names always say things that are far more intelligent."

I can refute that with one word: Mysterion.

Anonymous said...

Brad there is no fear. It's not
even science. And you know very well who Mike is.

Some times Zen Masters are mistaken.

Pete Hoge said...

Nishijima might also be talking
about bi-polar disorder as well.

The extreme of materialism
being depression and the
extreme of idealism related
to a manic state.

Then we bring in the Middle
way which is expressed as,
" body and mind fall away".

Does Nishijima also imply
that we can learn to control
our nervous systems through
zazen?

Anonymous said...

"One difference between anonymous posters and those who sign even obviously made up names is that the ones with names always say things that are far more intelligent."

There you go ruffling feathers again. You're a real rabble-rouser.

Khru said...

"Neural
physiologists and Buddhist
scholars will shred this dogma."


Boom. That's about it in a nutshell. Done deal.

anon #108 said...

Hi Pete Hoge. You asked:

"Does Nishijima also imply that we can learn to control our nervous systems through zazen?"

I've never met Gudo, but it so happens that I asked a very similar question of his Dharma-heir Mike Luetchford just this afternoon: 'The autonomic nervous system, being autonomic, can't be consciously controlled, so just what it is that Gudo suggests might be going on?'

This is pretty much what Mike said:

"Keeping the spine normally upright, with the head sitting squarely on the top of the vertebral column minimizes the compression of the nerves of these two systems at the points where the nerves emerge through the vertebrae, and ensures an uninterrupted supply of blood, allowing them to function normally. When the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems are both working normally, they function in
opposition to give us a state of
balance of body-and-mind; not too tense, and not too relaxed, not overly optimistic or pessimistic; not too aggressive and not too passive. It is this physical state of balance in the autonomic nervous system that give rise to what we call a balanced body-and-mind."


- from the booklet I linked above (written by ML)


I know sod-all about any of this, and it really doesn't matter to me if Gudo's theory is true or a joke. But, as an attempt to "de-mystify the experience" (as Brad wrote) I think it has value.

Anonymous said...

It's all a joke, really. Sorry to phrase it like that, me being an anonymous and all.

Ugh. Without David Chadwick and only this Harry Potter Warner guy, this blog sucks.

I quit.

Gabriel52 said...

This is a joke. Joe Cortez should have disqualified Mayweather. It was completly illegal to do that. Mayweather showed his true colors. If Cortez doesn't rectify he should retire right along with Richard Steele who in their old age have the habit to make bad calls. This sport is too dangerous to let this happen and for Floyd to get away with it.

Harry said...

Whether it's true or not, in the sense that it is an accurate account of something that really happens, is one thing.

Whether we need it to be true or not for other reasons is quite another matter. This latter one is the stuff that cults, dogmas and religions (and everything that comes with 'em!) are made of.

Regards,
Harry.

Full Name Traitor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
anon #108 said...

Bye, anon @1.02pm.

Of course, if you're looking to find a truly Enlightened Master who'll provide you with all the answers, you should prepare for a lifetime of disappointment.

Mysterion said...

We tend to be our perceptions and impressions - or so we think.

Since the point of ingestion is the nervous system, Nishijima may be attempting to increase the boundaries of consciousness to include taste, touch, smell, seeing, hearing, &c.

Then, by dividing the ONE thing - nervous system - into two components Nishijima may be proposing "a theory from which a further idea is developed."

Anyway, I wish him well.

I am planning a blog post on "death" having gone there, done that, bought the shirt, & worn it out.

Khru said...

This is probably the worst comment thread I've ever seen on Bradley's blog...

Anonymous said...

It's funny watching Brad rush to his teacher's defense. "Must...defend...the lineage...at all costs." Brad this is not about demystifying enlightenment. Anyone who's read a zen book has had it beaten into their skulls that enlightenment or the "balanced state" is nothing mystical--we're passed that. What people are getting upset about is that you're teacher, a purported Roshi, is employing the same kind of scientific reductionism used by scholars and intellectuals to talk about zen. It's like looking at a Jackson Pollack painting and feeding it through a software program to find out the true meaning of its brilliance. We all know that theory is always a step behind the immediacy of experience which unfolds moment to moment. This unfolding of life and death through every moment is what a real zen teacher is concerned with, not the self-important theories that only serve to impress the scientists and academics. So, go back to zen school, fucking amateur.

Buddhism? said...

With reference to the comments on the book part of the blog.

Is this the point that reality is driven by context? If you're a white middle class lad from X or Y place you're gonna have difference context with regards to reality coming from a African/Asian woman/,an from X or Y.

Is reality not so unique to use all that if we applied Buddhism to me (here in London) and to you (where ever you are)conclusion are going to alter. Yes I use Zen as a guiding light, but to try and put faith in "original" text that no longer exist is foolish and if you could they still wouldn't be relevant.

Anonymous said...

Yes, then use modern text.

Mike Luetchford to Brad:

" What does your many months of
working out the decision mean? Do you mean it took you many months
to convince yourself that the old
man knows what he is doing, as
against the feeling you write of
that ' you know for certain he was
crazy.'

Zen comedy at its finest.

Anonymous said...

Where's Chadwick when we need him?!

Anonymous said...

I bet Chadwick thinks that this ANS stuff is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I recently read "Buddha's Brain" by neuropsychologist Rick Hansen, and he describes the effects of meditation pretty similarly to Nishijima here, even using the same terms. He describes simply breathing as a see-sawing back and forth between the two sections of the autonomic nervous system. So I'm not sure I understand the claim that neuropsychologists will "shred this dogma". As for Buddhist scholars, who cares? It looks like Nishijima may be more accurately and concretely describing the effects of zazen than previous Buddhist thinkers did. *shrug*

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I recently read "Buddha's Brain" by neuropsychologist Rick Hansen, and he describes the effects of meditation pretty similarly to Nishijima here, even using the same terms. He describes simply breathing as a see-sawing back and forth between the two sections of the autonomic nervous system. So I'm not sure I understand the claim that neuropsychologists will "shred this dogma". As for Buddhist scholars, who cares? It looks like Nishijima may be more accurately and concretely describing the effects of zazen than previous Buddhist thinkers did. *shrug*


OK, "Anonymous." Please prove that you're NOT Brad Warner.

Nishijundo said...

Buddha’s Brain has been praised by leading scholars, psychologists, and meditation teachers – including Sharon Salzberg, Roger Walsh, Joseph Goldstein, Jennifer Louden, Fred Luskin, Tara Brach, Jerome Engel, James Baraz, Phillip Zelazo, Richard Miller, Christina Feldman, Wes Nisker, and many others – and you can read their endorsements.

You’ll learn how your brain creates worry or inner strength, heartache or love, anger or peacefulness, confusion or clarity, and suffering or its end – and how to:

Take in good experiences to feel happier and more confident – defeating the brain’s negativity bias, which is like Velcro for bad experiences but Teflon for positive ones
Train your brain to cool down stress, greed, and hatred – and come home to your natural core of calm and contentment
Energize the neural networks of compassion, empathy, and love – and clear out resentment, envy, and ill will
Improve attention for daily life, mindfulness, and meditation
Feel more at one with the world, and less separate and vulnerable
Get the nutrients your brain needs to maintain a good mood, relieve anxiety, sharpen memory, and strengthen concentration
If you can change your brain, you can change your life.

Dr. Fudd said...

We hear the word “mindful” more and more these days, but
what does it actually mean? Being mindful simply means
having good control over your attention: you can place your attentionwherever you want and it stays there; when you want to shift it to something else, you can.

When your attention is steady, so is your mind: not rattled or hijacked by whatever pops into awareness, but stably present,
grounded, and unshakeable. Attention is like a spotlight, and
what it illuminates streams into your mind and shapes your brain. Consequently, developing greater control over your attention is perhaps the single most powerful way to reshape your brain and
thus your mind.

Ben Cleary said...

Sounds like "Taming Your Gremlin" to me. Read that one?

Brad, please check out "Taming Your Gremlin" and holler back. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous who accused me of being Brad Warner:

Hahaha, wow, I just got accused of secretly being Brad Warner. Strange day. Seriously though, what would who I am have to do with what I said? Somebody said that neural psychologists would shred Nishijima's theory, I pointed out that a neuropsychologist wrote a book that was quite amenable to Nishijima's viewpoint. I thought it was kind of interesting.

(Also, I spelled Rick HansOn's name wrong, which I suspect Brad Warner wouldn't have done.)

Harry said...

I reckon, in the same line as 'Taming Your Gremlin', Brad's next book should be called 'Spanking the Monkey Mind'...?

Regards,

H.

Anonymous said...

Rick Hansen states that " the
brain has 100 billion neurons '
and " each neuron has 5,000
connections with other neurons",
ie., it is one of the most complex
entities in the universe.

He also says that delberate
attention is focused in the
anterior cingulate cortex.

Can you show me in the book where
he states that when the body
and mind drop away there is a
balance between the adrenergic and
cholinergic systems.

No you can't because you can't even
demonstate that there is any
alteration in those 2 systems, or
even if there is cholinergic and
adrenergic input into the anterior
cingulate.

So it isn't similar. It's nonsense.

Anonymous said...

well there are mundane and supramundane results to practice. mundane stuff makes good conditions, like a healthy body. supramundane gets you not suffering anyome. just making good conditions like a healthy body does not mean you won't still suffer. In other words, the ANS being perfectly balanced doesn't mean you're enlightened.

hahahaha what do I know?

Anonymous said...

Too many anonymous commenters engaging each other.

Anonymous said...

Hanson's site:

" Great questioning; great
enlightenment.
Little questioning; little
enlightenment."

Dogen

Thankyou Brad for the opportunity
to converse

Anonymous said...

I've heard a good way to put this:

Algebra was discovered by muslim mystics, and genetics were discovered by a franciscan monk, but no one would mistake those two practices as being religious. Yes, the religious aspect provided a means, but algebra is not a muslim practice.

Mindfulness and meditation isn't necessarily a religious activity, but Buddhist traditions have paved the way. If it's genuinely scientifically helpful, it is no longer religious, but scientific.

--matt

an3drew said...

" Great questioning; great
enlightenment.
Little questioning; little
enlightenment."

talking about something and not doing it or pretending to do it, just the usual ongoing stupidity

ie all the zen wannabies including the teachers and dogen !

an3drew said...

no thanking me of course !

Nietzche said...

"I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? … All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to overman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.... The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth.... Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss … what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end."

Zenleo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"The author also contends that this process of Westernization is not confined to Americans and Europeans who have misinterpreted Buddhism through their own cultural conditioning. It also includes Asians who have interpreted Buddhism according to their modern Westernized points of view. "

Certainly one viewpoint is as valid as a mother, ladder, penis...! ack!

Zenleo said...

Oh by the way in Brads Previous Blog Posting Harry said:

I think 'spitting on people to see them fizz' is just a type of entertainment (very often not 'wholesome' entertainment, like The Walton's, for example), but maybe it also addresses our need to connect with others in some strange and convoluted way?

I understand this atitude completely and have engaged in it myself. I have also observed (two in particular) people at work whose most primal form of connection seems to be mocking, degrading or just messing with others. What I have noticed is that those that engage in that sort of behavior frequently seem to also lack empathy.

Cheers! ....

Broken Yogi said...

I'm curious as to whether he was influenced by the Vedic concept of "sattvas", which is usually considered one of the three gunas (rajas, tamas, and sattvas) and denoting a balanced state. In more esoteric descriptions of moksha, it is often said to be associated with a deeper meaning of sattvas. Ramana Maharshi, for example, would often refer to liberation as "true Sattvas". It would seem relevant to the whole concept of Nagarjuna's "Middle Way", as well. Much to ponder there.

Manny Furious said...

This was a great post. Usually I only post when I have something to criticize. But your perspective runs parallel with mine on this issue. Maybe you should be worried, as I have a tendency to be wrong on most issues....

Lauren said...

everything is based in a physical reality and has nothing to do with the noise between our ears including our models of the physical reality, except that some parts of the model give repeatable predictions. despite the emptiness of "apple" "fall" " tree" and "separation", our prediction that apples will fall when separated from the tree seems fairly spot on. Whatever anyone has ever meant by enlightenment it is only "spiritual" in of experience of it. In truth it must be some real physical event.

Pete Hoge said...

Thanks "anon-108".

Luca said...

Hi Brad,
thanks for this article. What about the word emptiness in "form is emptiness, emptiness is form"? Could you please clarify the meaning maybe suggesting a different translation?

Anonymous said...

If this action is associated with defilements, these defilements, in turn, are not found in themselves. If defilements are not in themselves, how could there be an action in itself? (Kalupahana)

While this action has affliction as its nature
This affliction is not real in itself.
If affliction is not in itself,
How can action be real in itself? (Garfield)

Action and defilements are specified as the conditions of the [different] bodies. However, if these actions and defilements are empty, what could be said about the bodies? (Kalupahana)

Action and affliction
Are taught to be conditions that produce bodies.
If action and affliction are empty,
What would one say about bodies? (Garfield)



Mahayana Buddhism, including all the Zen teachings, turn on Emptiness ... and Nargarjuna was certainly one of the most influential and gifted explainers of "Emptiness" (just like Hawking and his Black Holes). We dance Emptiness in our Practice. Still, Nargarjuna's "math" is hard going! (In my chat about it with Mongen, he made that point that moving through Nargarjuna's complex Indian-logical writings may be difficult ... but worth the trip. I agree ... but also feel that reading Nargarjuna is not really necessary to piercing Emptiness, just like one can rather "get" Black Holes ... and get sucked into one ... without getting Hawking's equations).

Now, what about Nishijima Roshi?

This was a subject that, about two years ago, caused some difficulties between Roshi, me and some other of his students. Roshi is now suffering from the advanced stages of age related dementia (he is 92), and his family has taken charge of his nursing. However, already from several years ago, he was getting very very confused. While Roshi is a gifted translator of Buddhist texts in Japanese and English, his attempt at a Sanskrit translation of the MMK was ... to be blunt ... very tangled and confused, the product of his age related problems, fixation on certain views of Buddhism which hardened in his later years, and poor abilities in Sanskrit (there are very basic misunderstandings of grammar by Nishijima Roshi such that, for example, Nargarjuna's point is often backwards from the original) and strained English. Here is a taste ...

http://gudoblog-e.blogspot.com/search?q ... nd+Resulf+

Anonymous said...

Roshi's version of the already convoluted passages above is, for example:

26. The place, where Action has naturally included severe pain, is just this world.

However the severe pain is not only the real situation of facts there.

In the actual situations there, the severe pain is not all at that place.

Action might produce something, which is Real Fact itself,


27. Action and the severe pain are just belonging to physical bodies.

And many Truths are the contents, which are spoken with words.

When both Action and the severe pain are existing in the balanced autonomic nervous
system,

What kind and from what place those kinds of many bodies come from?


Roshi insisted that the translation should be published. Some folks among his students went along, mostly to please our Teacher. On the other hand, I, and some others, told Nishijima Roshi politely that perhaps the translation did not represent his best effort, and should not be published. He did not like us to tell him and became quite upset with me, saying that I was trying to sabotage his work, even steal it. However, at this point, I know it was just his age and confusion talking, the effects of his oncoming dementia. My own mother went through a very similar period after a series of strokes.

Now, Brad Warner has done a version which, I understand (because I have not read it yet, so I will just give Brad the benefit of the doubt that he was able to turn it into something worthwhile until I do), tries to save Nishijima Roshi's translation by treating it ... not as a translation ... but as something merely loosely "inspired by" Nargarjuna. Brad apparently added some commentary to try to tie it together. I have not yet seen the result, but know that the publication has been delayed several times now. I am not sure why. Unless the work is really repaired or changed into something good, I still might think it should not be published.

Getting old is not fun sometimes.

Gassho, J

Anonymous said...

form = flow

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said "It's like looking at a Jackson Pollack painting and feeding it through a software program to find out the true meaning of its brilliance."

People have built careers and spent lifetimes doing exactly just that. I see this more like someone coming along and saying hey, it's just about where the brush meets the canvas... and i find that really inspiring.

Donny

anon #108 said...

YW, PH.

Well put, if I may say so, Lauren and anon/Donny.

As you may know, Donny, the cool thing is that this way of looking at things ("it's just about where the brush meets the canvas") is only one of the three ways of viewing that Gudo believes are the basis of Buddhist theory (the fourth, reality itself, is beyond views).

In his old age (soon to be 93?) Gudo has banged on and on about the ANS, arguably at the expense of the whole picture, and it's made him an easy target for people who can't be bothered/are not inclined to properly check out what he's written and said. Worse than being a target, it's detracted attention from what he has/had to offer, which, for me, has been very useful. You pays your money...

Anonymous said...

Anon 108, you said you never met Gudu. Come on.

" It's true because I only met the
realized being, the essence of
suchness. Gudu doesn't exist."

Anonymous said...

Speak the truth, not the words to
protect your position in the
trappings of Zen.

Having lived with some one with
dementia I witnessed the flame
being snuffed out in a way
not like nirvana.

Brad Warner said...

Gudo, not Gudu.

anon #108 said...

That's true, anon. I never met Gudo. I've only read what he's written - the very small part that's been translated into English - and seen a few videos. But I consider Mike Luetchford, one of his first Western students, to be my Buddhist teacher, and I've met, listened to and sat with Mike quite a few times. So my understanding of Buddhism has been usefully influenced by Mike's, whose understanding was usefully influenced by Gudo's.

I'm not sure what you're getting at with "It's true because I only met the realized being, the essence of suchness" but Gudo did and does (just), as far as I'm aware, exist.

Brad Warner said...

Another way Nishijima Roshi used to explain the effects of zazen was "plus minus zero." This is similar to the way Joshu Sasaki, a Rinzai teacher (who is even older than Nishijima) explains it.

Sasaki said, "it is said in our tradition that the Enlightened One taught his disciples using this word 'zero,' and he said the zero condition is this perfect complete condition in which plus and minus are unifying with one another and then facing one another over and over again. Plus and minus unify and face, unify and face, but there is no will—it’s a totally will-less activity. Of course human beings have will, but this activity of plus and minus is will-less. The Enlightened One taught his disciples that the activity which forms the universe is always acting will-lessly, and even though it makes many universes and then contracts all of those universes down to the smallest point, there is always simply one singular, unique cosmos."

This quotation is so like Nishijima Roshi it could almost have been transcribed from one of his lectures. Nishijima used the word "intention" rather than "will." But I believe the meaning (intention?) was the same.

Brad Warner said...

"And you know very well who Mike is."

Actually, I still don't know for sure who Mike is. Previous comments have mentioned 2 people as candidates, Mike Cross and Mike Leutchford. Those are the 2 I thought it might be. Both are Nishijima Roshi's students and both have blogs (though I have not read either blog for a year or more).

Not trying to beat a dead horse here. But one thing I've learned when writing is that you really have to avoid assuming your audience knows what you're referencing.

For example, once I was being interviewed by a very intelligent woman who knew quite a bit about Eastern religions. I said, "When Buddha left the palace." She asked me what I was talking about. She'd never heard the story of Buddha leaving the palace of his father and seeing the four sights that made him decide to become a wandering acetic. Her training had mostly been in Hindu-based stuff.

Similarly, even here, one should not assume that everyone (me included) knows very well who you're talking about when you say "Mike." There are a whole lot of people in this world named Mike.

Anonymous said...

Zero and minus one is a better
metaphor. In the perfect universe
there is non-dual realization and
yet form. The duality of form and
emptiness diaapears in a flash of
intuition. Something, yet no big deal.

Gudu said...

Brad, You are assuming they are referring to Gudo and not me. We are not the same person.

anon #108 said...

Luetchford, not Leutchford ;)

Mike said...

He likes it. Mikey likes it.

Where's Chadwick?

Brad Warner said...

Luca said:

Hi Brad,
thanks for this article. What about the word emptiness in "form is emptiness, emptiness is form"? Could you please clarify the meaning maybe suggesting a different translation?


The quotation from the Heart Sutra is 色即是空空即是色, which is pronounced "shiki soku ze ku, ku soku ze shiki." "Shiki" is written with the character that usually means "color" in modern Japanese. In older Chinese it means form. "Ku" is emptiness. The "soku ze" bit is like saying "is." But it's a very strong affirmation of equivalence. So sometimes the line is translated as "form is nothing other than emptiness, emptiness is nothing other than form."

Nishijima translates this as "matter is the immaterial, the immaterial is matter." But most others stick with the standard translation.

Shiki (form) and ku (emtiness) are very general and somehwat ambiguous terms. "Matter" and "the immaterial" are less ambiguous. When you use more definite terms you also take away some of the open-endedness of the terms. But you introduce other levels of ambiguity that differ between the target and the source languages.

All of this gets us nowhere, though. It's just a bunch of playing around with words. In actual zazen practice you come face-to-face with what this means over and over and over. It may take a while to notice that's what you're doing. But it is.

Mysterion said...

My name isn't Mike.

The only Mic I knew was the one that was in front of my face in the radio studio or television control room...

But seriously, folks...

anon #108 said...

Brad,

Mike Luetchford doesn't have a blog. I don't think he ever has had one. Stays well away from blogging. Doesn't enjoy it. Doesn't find it conducive to a balanced ANS...something like that.

Luca said...

Hi Brad,

thanks for taking the time to answer :-)

Anonymous said...

Brad, I once sent you an email and asked what do you think that you, and those in your zen community would think if Gudo's ANS balance concept was scientifically proven to be correct. I didnt get a response then, but Im getting a pretty clear one here.
It is a scientific question. Zazen helps to balance your ANS, or it does not.
I really wish that someone with the scientific capabilities would take a look at this idea, and see if it is true or not.
There are actually several known maladies that are caused by imbalanced ANS. Zazen would be a nice solution. Much better that another pill.
just my .02

Matt J

Anonymous said...

Also Brad, Where do you think that Gudo got this concept?
He obviously did not just think it up all by himself. Since he is not educated in medicine or Physiology.
Where do you think that this concept came from?

Matt J

Anonymous said...

You might just as well say it's a
balance between dopaminergic and
serotonergic systems, or between
glutamate and GABAergic systems.
There are a million inputs from
different neurotransmitters, and
backup systems in different areas
of the brain, and the whole thing
is plastic and can be remodelled.

Enlightenment is easier to
understand, with or without words.

1000 Names of Vishnu said...

Interesting.

However, one aspect of the early bdh. that many new agers miss might be...the negativity: the BlessedOne was very aware of death, chaos, dissipation, entropy--the dukkhas. "Life is suffering" did not just mean human x or y. It meant...like all organic life--. It's a Weltanschaunng not...a self-help group(and still related to.hindu concepts--"becomingness"for lack of a betterterm-- something zensters downplay) . Via..right living one becomes aware of that...hopefully escapes it...

Corpse mammy zen

Mumon said...

Science tells us that the human autonomic nervous system consists of two parts. These are called the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. These two nervous systems, they say, work in opposition to one another. It is my belief that the workings of the sympathetic nervous system are the true basis for the philosophy we call materialism while the workings of the parasympathetic nervous system are the fundamental basis for the philosophy we call idealism or spirituality. When the sympathetic nervous system is in ascendancy we tend to feel materialistic. We become more involved with body than with mind. When the parasympathetic nervous system is stronger we feel spiritual. Our mind becomes clearer but we lose contact with our body.

The practice of zazen brings the two nervous systems into balance, allowing each one to function at equal strength. When this occurs there is what Master Dogen called “dropping off body and mind.”


Oh, wow...this is way too much and not enough.

Mysterion said...

Please, everyone, read:

Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness
by James H. Austin

Winner of the Scientific and Medical Network Book Prize for 1998

It's an 800+ page read that requires average high-school literacy skills to comprehend. It is NOT a medical book.

cheers,
Chas

Anonymous said...

Death, chaos and entropy are the
normal state of affairs. They
aren't a problem. Neither is
dementia. It is what is suppose to happen. There is nothing to avoid.

What did Dogen have to say along
these lines?

Anonymous said...

Do you recommend it over Buddha's Brain? Or have you read BB and are in a position to compare?

What does this "understanding" merit?

Can you, or any scientist for that matter, clearly say "where" consciousness lies? Is it in the "mind" or in the object of perception, etc.?


BTW: glad you're back M.

Anonymous said...

Even if Gudo's theory of the ANS is proven correct and heralded as one of the great break-throughs in buddhism and science, of what good is it to the average practitioner doing zazen? Zero! If neuroscience could cure my suffering then I would become a neuroscientist, but sadly it does not. Theories, as clever and pretty as they might be, will not get you anywhere. You can read them, be entertained by them, use them as talking points for your next coffee shop debate, but ultimately you must leave this shit behind.

Anonymous said...

Buddhist Geeks 141: Austin on
brain mechanisms involved in
Kensho, Satori and the lesser
quickenings such as the high at a
Big Mind intensive.

Mysterion said...

Source: www.cerritos.edu/charbut/AP150/lec_otl/150%20ANS.ppt

Divisions of the Autonomic Nervous System

Sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions – often innervate the same target organs and may have cooperative or contrasting effects on them

Sympathetic division increases alertness, heart rate, blood pressure, pulmonary airflow, blood glucose concentration, and blood flow to cardiac and skeletal muscle – reduces blood flow to the skin and digestive tract

Parasympathetic division – has calming effect on many body functions – associated with reduced energy expenditure and normal body maintenance – associated with digestion and waste elimination

Both systems are active simultaneously

Produce a background rate of activity called autonomic tone
balance between sympathetic tone and parasympathetic tone shifts with body’s changing needs

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Great post. And for once, a lot of intelligent remarks.

Brad will have to post something completely silly soon to break up all the seriousness.

Leah McClellan said...

Very interesting. My main, non-anonymous comment, especially after reading all the other comments, is something like Huh. That's what kept coming to me after every comment so I figure it must be important.

Huh. Which means I'm kind of puzzled, scratching head, rubbing chin etc.

I had to refresh my memory of the para and sympathetic nervous systems--bio and psych 101 was awhile back. But this idea doesn't seem far-fetched to me: "The practice of zazen brings the two nervous systems into balance, allowing each one to function at equal strength. When this occurs there is what Master Dogen called “dropping off body and mind.”

Could be. For me, sitting and different things I practice help me to feel more at peace inside or more balanced, in general. A certain sort-of yoga move I do feels like I have to drop off body and mind or I can't do it (it's on one foot, like an arabesque, and the balance requires...nothingness. If my mind starts up or I pay attention to physical sensations I lose it).

My other thought is something like "this is interesting but I'd have to spend an afternoon to really be sure I understand it."

But back up to translations: good explanation. I was reading just recently about all the many different Buddhist texts from way back and all the versions, and how they have to be compared to be fairly certain something is as close as possible to what Buddha actually/probably said since it was an oral tradition at first. And then really we still have to test it against what we learn in zazen or what we believe to be truth. Translations are tricky and in any belief system including Christianity we really have to look closely and be careful to not knee jerk and assume what the meaning is.

All this is probably why I don't spend any time trying to be a Buddhist scholar :). Probably shouldn't even post this comment since it probably doesn't make sense. Oh well.

Huh. Have to read this again when I have more time. Good stuff on translations.

Lauren said...

I think it may be important to say that the "balanced state" or whatever is not a so much a "feeling" of mind and body dropping away, because "feelings" are mushy concept things (and often differentiated from "emotions" which some researchers use to denote the physiological aspects things like anger and fear). It is not the "feeling" of mind an body dropping away, but rather their actual dropping away in that the organs of the brain that drive the conceptual differentiation are "balanced" or "short circuited" or "bypassed" or simply not used, and perception is of the immediate flow of reality rather than messed up with all the concepts we use.

This is theory that is self limiting. A theory that says theories can not fully explain reality. That is why, I think, many koans talk about some physically impossible things.

At some point we must abandon the theory. It is like jumping off the 100 foot pole.

Or our theories can get us mostly there but cannot at all complete themselves. It is like getting the body of the ox through a window be not being able to get the tail through.

Direct, immediate participation with the flow of reality in the now.

"Greatly realizing". The wood is completely and only wood until it is ash.

....headache.

Leah McClellan said...

Lauren, I wonder if my comment sparked yours? Anyway, another meaning for "feeling" is sensation. And the way I look at it is more in retrospect: I know when my mind is busy and I'm feeling/sensing/focusing on my body--oh, my ankle is shaking woopsy oh I'm losing my balance (which is, of course, the mind analyzing the bodily sensations lol). But when all is quiet, balance returns, and I know when it returns. What does it feel like as far as senses go? Nothing. Silence. An absence, maybe.

Even if you weren't responding to my comment it's good to clarify. Words are limiting:)

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous who asked what use theories about the ANS were to zazen practitioners:

For me, quite a bit. When I first read Nishijima's comments about the ANS, I thought it sounded vague, pseudoscientific, a little off-putting, and not particularly useful. But then when I read up on the functions of the ANS a bit (including in Buddha's Brain) and really came to understand how my breathing and posture affect my ANS, I got in a concrete way that it doesn't matter what conceptualizations I'm spinning around in my head. I'd been spending all this time trying to figure out why exactly zazen was such an important practice for sense-organs of the universe and blah blah etcetera. But once I got that just by sitting there and letting my breathing settle I'm activating the PNS and SNS in see-sawing alternations, and that my understanding of the process is of no consequence to its function, my brain shut up. My worries about whether I was doing it right greatly lessened.

I'm sure that in time regular zazen might've shut it all up anyway, but for me the medical understanding proved quite useful. If it isn't for you, throw it away.

Keep in mind, I'm not inclined to care much about the pursuit of "enlightenment", so whether or not ANS balance describes "enlightenment" isn't really of interest to me. I do zazen because before I did zazen, I was stuck in habitual patterns of behaviour that made me suffer. Now, I suffer less. I know that some people believe that Buddhist modernization and synthesis with therapy are to be maligned, but on a personal level I'm very glad it's happened.

Doug said...

Hello Brad, this was a fun post to read. I have to admit I am one of those simultaneously intrigued and frightened by a "mundane" view of Enlightenment. But I think you make some great points about it, and our knee-jerk reflex aversion to it. Food for thought. 

For what it's worth, Pure Land Buddhism (Jodo Shu, Jodo Shinshu) has it's own debate about whetherthe Pure Land is here or somewhere else. The Amitabha Sutra, while short, alludes to both possibilities and has been a perennial favorite of Chinese Chan Buddhists among others. 

As for me, I don't know which one is valid or whether the Pure Land really is synonymous with Enlightenment. I honestly don't know. I think your right though that more practice is in order and the answer will make itself clear in time. :-)

南無阿弥陀仏

P.S. Reader and Tanabe have an awesome book exploring Western Academia's mis-representation of Japanese Buddhism called "Practically Religious". The amount of on the ground research in that book is pretty impressive.  

Anonymous said...

Don't forget: ya gotta eat!

Anonymous said...

WTF? Censorship again?
The only good thing about this
blog is the NO CENSORSHIP part.

Oh well, time to move on...
Fair winds and a following sea
to all the sentient schmucks.

So long and thanks for all the fish!

Anonymous said...

Brad said... Actually, I still don't know for sure who Mike is. Previous comments have mentioned 2 people as candidates, Mike Cross and Mike Leutchford. Those are the 2 I thought it might be. Both are Nishijima Roshi's students and both have blogs (though I have not read either blog for a year or more).

Perhaps Seagal Rinpoche will be so kind as to shed some light on this matter.

And maybe he can also explain how Brad could have read Mike Luetchford's blog when Mike Luetchford has never had a blog. Must be a "Zen" thing, eh?

proulx michel said...

Brad wrote:

There are a whole lot of people in this world named Mike.

Including Mr Rophone, Mike Rophone...

donny said...

sympathetic is parasympathetic, parasympathetic is sympathetic

Anonymous said...

Action and severe pain are
occurring in the balanced ANS.

Action = abiding in the non-dual
realization = Emptiness

severe pain = dukkha = bone out
of socket = samsara = world of Form

The balanced ANS = the physical and
mental manifestation of the change
brought about by the merger of
Action and Pain.

Fred's interpretation of Gudo.

Harry said...

My deepest parasympathies...

Stinks of Zen said...

Mysterion, glad you mentioned Zen and the Brain. I have owned it for some time and have recently started reading it.

Mysterion said...

Back to basics:

You have three things:

1) That Buddha lived
2) That Buddha taught
3) That Buddha left a community on Monks.

1) Somebody woke up.
2) Dharma/ Tripitaka / other
3) Sangha

you can acknowledge, question or deny point 1.

you can read, read anthologies, read CliffsNotes, attend lectures, &c.

You can do much, little, or nothing...

"A good book is better than bad company." - Serge Daniloff

an3drew said...

the buddha is a fairy tale character so he never lived except in the imagination
so he never taught and he never left a community of monks and early buddhism was much more like a bank than is realised

"the buddha as a businessman"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GeZGFvbDzo

so

genpo merzel is way ahead of the pack !

everyone wakes up in the morning, you need to wake up at night !

an3drew said...

"The truth is just the truth as crisp and clean as biting into an apple." anonymous 11.06

no

it's

not

it's

as

obscure
a
s

any

mud

pie

and

that's

the

truth !

Mysterion said...

"The problem with using religious documents to approach an understanding of the past—well, really any historical document—is not that they’re inaccurate or too fantastic to be true, but rather that they are incomplete." source

However, you don't serve Lumbini with tomato sauce.

On the other hand...

"Herzog is Almost in the Consensus"

There are plenty of religious myths to go around...

cheers,
chas

Anonymous said...

Brad, go film David C. again, maybe this time buy him a tofu hotdog. Take him to see the "Akron Needle." Seriously, anything but this.

Hands up, everyone who wants to see David Chadwick as a regular guest Zen author here?

Yeah, thought so.

Oh well, guess I'll go over to cukeville.

Lauren said...

Leah,

I was not so much responding to you as riffing off of your words. They clearly set my tumblers turning, though I'm far from unlocking this mess. Words are limiting and clarity is precious and fleeting.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain why atheists troll and flame religious websites ?

Having a non believers point of view is one thing. But antagonizing people until they submit to an agreeable point of view is the same tactic used by the "God hates fags" Bible thumpers.

Different sides. Same coin.

kristien said...

The Ruchira Buddha, Adi Da Samraj, speaks on the matter of translation:
"There can be no such thing as a literal translation, principally because these texts were not written in plain (conventional) speech. In addition, they were written a very long time ago. Furthermore, because the texts themselves were not constructed on the basis of English grammar, they cannot, if they are to be rightly and fully understood, be presented in a mere word-for-word translation. Rather, any so-called "translation" must be an interpretation,
The presentation of a text of Reality-Teachings is a matter of Teaching Reality to listeners. Therefore the right communication of such a text must be done on the basis of the Realization of Reality Itself.
If Realization is true of the translator, the Truth of any text can be re-spoken--or spoken now, in present time. Only in that case can the texts be made to fully speak the Truth, the meanings in the texts be made to fully speak the Truth, the meanings in the texts having been rightly located and rendered in language that is comprehensible. Fully, rightly done, the rendering of the text should (in such case) not require extensive (or even any) further commentary. The text should be plainly spoken--and made to speak plainly- just as it is. Footnotes should (in general) not be much required.
Ancient texts typically contain obscure references—local, provincial references, cultural references belonging to the time and the place in which the text was made—which, often, are elements that have virtually no use for simply transmitting the meaning of the text. It is necessary, then, that the texts be re-spoken, from their original (and non-provincial) depths of meaning—and, thus, be spoken truly, and only effectively, as if for the first time”
From THE GNOSTICON, The “Perfect Knowledge" Reality-Teachings of His Divine Presence Avatar Adi Da Samraj

Anonymous said...

All models of reality are only models of reality.

They are not reality.

This includes Zen Buddhism.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, if you look at the source
of anger, and quiet the mind, the
Buddha will radiate through the
calmness.

Fred

Crazy Wisdom said...

Coming soon to a theater near you...
http://www.crazywisdomthemovie.com/trailer

Anonymous said...

Say, is this a religious website?

Anonymous said...

Say, is this a religious website?

Is getting drunk, having sex with
your students, behaving badly
while spouting crap about cutting
through spiritual materialism,
spiritual practice?

Anonymous said...

yes!

Brad Warner said...

Anonymous said:

Is getting drunk, having sex with
your students, behaving badly
while spouting crap about cutting
through spiritual materialism,
spiritual practice?


That darn Trungpa! What a guy, huh?

But here's proof positive some of the anonymous comments are fake. I received both this comment and its follow up ("Yes!") simultaneously. So the "Yes!" was sent before anyone other than the original commenter could have seen it.

Just in case anyone wondered.

Leah McClellan said...

Hey Lauren, Nothing like a good riff. Riff on...I'll go do my one foot yoga pose and try to carry the clarity with me back to my desk. Or maybe not, since I need to get my brain riffing on something else right now :)

an3drew said...

"Andrew, if you look at the source
of anger, and quiet the mind, the
Buddha will radiate through the
calmness."

you

mean

the

buddha

of

babi

yar ?

an3drew said...

“All models of reality are only models of reality.

They are not reality.

This includes Zen Buddhism.”


the problem is that reality is a model of reality


i was just reading through tanahahsi's translation of dogen's three hundred koan shobogenzo which is reasonable if you skip john loori's mostly nonsensical commentary and was struck by how very strongly solipsistic the koans were

Anonymous said...

Actually Brad I left the "Yes!" comment as a positive statement that had nothing to with the previous comment . Believe it or not. I sincerely did not know of this post about Trungpa or post it."Yes!" was inspired from what attracted John Lennon to Yoko http://hellaheaven-ana.blogspot.com/2009/10/yes-yoko-onos-yes-painting-that.html

It was purely coincidental or? See how easily things are misinterpreted on the net. I know you are doubting this and there is no way I can change your mind. But it is the truth. Yes it is.

an3drew said...

Adi Da Ramsaj, speaks on the matter of translation:

"There can be no such thing as a literal translation"

yeah because a lot of them are literally bullshit and if you write what they mean it doesn't sound good

Jaren said...

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1417259480/zen-motherfuckers-a-novel?ref=live

Anonymous said...

Maybe!

Anonymous said...

Brad do you believe the "yes!" comment is really the same poster as the trungpa or could of it been coincidental? What are the odds of two people clicking at the same time. And if they did . perhaps there was a reason? I doubt it. But still.... Can you see IP addresses on blog posts? If you can, as a supervisor of this blog you will see that the posts came from two different IP addresses. I guarantee it.

Anonymous said...

aww, he knows that, it makes for a better comment that way.

Anonymous said...

Yes!

Anonymous said...

Yes!

John Prince said...

This sentence is, I must say, brilliant:
"Even if we read the texts in their original languages, we come from such a different place culturally we still won't be able to get what the people who wrote them meant exactly."
Thanks for expressing it.

matthewmgioia@gmail.com said...

Hi Brad

Did you read the book this post is supposedly a response to? I mean, I see that you have quoted something from the beginning of the book, but you don't address the main issues in the book in any meaningful way.

You suggest that Buddhism is always changing, etc., and that "Westernization and modernization of Buddhism is inevitable and helpful." But the argument in the book is not that Buddhism has merely undergone "Westernization and modernization;" it's that most of what most educated Buddhists the world over now consider to be "Buddhism" has borrowed heavily from various Western discourses, especially Romanticism. McMahan convincingly makes the case that,

"Echoes of Romanticism ring in the modern Buddhist appeals to a return to the natural, to the probing of the deep interior of consciousness, to suspicion of external authority, to the reveling in creative spontaneity, and to the perception of the oneness and interconnectedness of all life."

(Coincidentally, Nishijima appears to be fully behind the notion of "a return to the natural" in the quotation you included)

So again: the point is not that Buddhism is being "Westernized," but that what's happened is a lot closer to Western Romanticism being repackaged as Buddhism (and therefore made more palatable to people who believe they are disillusioned with Western culture). As McMahan writes, this goes for Asians (like Nishijima) as well - Buddhism has been similarly "modernized" in Japan, Thailand, Korea, etc. As far as I can tell (I'm actually only about half way through myself) that is what's interesting about this book, not the impossibility of translation.

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