Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Trashed on Amazon


I'm in Manchester, England now. I'll be speaking here on Friday evening and running an all-day zazen on Saturday. You can find the relevant likes by clicking here.

Gudo Nishijima’s translation and commentary on Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way is finally out and available now at decent bookshops all over the USA as well as on the Barnes & Noble and Amazon websites. I helped Nishijima fix up his English and contributed extensively to the commentary so I received a co-writer credit.

But speaking of Amazon, the book has been getting a total trashing in their reader reviews section. It’s been so nasty and vindictive in there that I thought it would be good to address the matter.

There are now five extraordinarily mean-spirited and angry one star reviews of the book on Amazon. You can read them for yourself if you enjoy bile and vitrol. But I’ll try to summarize the key issues here without quite so much bitterness.

The main criticisms appear to be that 1) some believe the book is presented in such a way as to deliberately fool people who want to buy Jay Garfield’s translation of the same Nagarjuna poem into thinking this is his, and that 2) the book is not an accurate translation of the poem itself.

The first criticism is based on the fact that both Garfield and Nishijima chose to title their books Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. This is one of the standard English translations of the Sanskrit title of the work, Mulamadhyamakakarika. While some scholarly translations such as the one by Kenneth Inada used the Sanskrit, Monkfish Books thought that would be too difficult for most readers and instead chose to go with a standard English translation. Other translations of the Sanskrit title include Root Stanzas of the Middle Way, Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way and Fundamental Song of the Middle Way. Personally I did not notice that the title was the same as Garfield’s and that his was the only currently available English version that used this specific translation. Had I noticed this, I probably would have substituted something like “poem” for the word “wisdom” in the title. I regret having not done so, but it’s too late to change it now.

Also some have said that the cover resembles the cover of the Garfield version. It’s true. It does. It also resembles the covers of about 80% of all books on Buddhism these days. Monkfish followed the very standard practice of illustrating the cover with an ancient Chinese painting of the master who wrote the original piece. Pretty much every publisher follows this practice when designing a cover for a translation of an ancient Buddhist work.

In any case none of this was an attempt to deceive the public into thinking they were buying Garfield’s translation. Why would anyone want to do that? It’s not as if the Garfield translation sells in Harry Potter-like or Twilight-like quantities, thus making it attractive to try and copy. It’s also not as if the intended readership are the kinds of people who’d buy the book without checking out who wrote it first. It’s an absurd allegation, but one that is repeated in four of the five negative reviews on Amazon.

Some of the other allegations are similarly absurd. One reviewer states that, “Dogen, Godzilla, and Nishijima--the autonomic nervous system-- are all more fully present than Nagarjuna.” Godzilla is mentioned once in my introductory essay in a sentence in which I apologize to readers familiar with my other books for not mentioning Godzilla in this one. There is one commentary in which Nishijima outlines his ideas about the autonomic nervous system. I quoted this commentary in full in an earlier posting on this blog, which can be found by clicking here and scrolling about halfway down the piece. This commentary is then referenced briefly several more times in later commentaries. Dogen is mentioned a lot. But Nishijima says right in his introduction, “My own thoughts regarding Buddhism rely solely upon what Master Dogen wrote about the philosophy. So when reading the Mulamadhyamakakarika it is impossible for me not to be influenced by Master Dogen’s Buddhist ideas.” Why then would it be surprising to find a lot of references to Dogen in the commentaries?

As for the book not being an accurate translation, this is a more complex issue. I address it in great detail in both my foreword and my afterword to the book. I have put those on a webpage so you can read them in full. Just click here.

In part I said there that, “We’ll never know Nagarjuna’s real intentions. We’ll only ever know what his words mean to us. This book represents what those words mean to Gudo Nishijima.” Further along I wrote, “Every translation of anything is an interpretation. For fifteen years I worked at a job where one of my main tasks was translating the dialogue of cheap Japanese monster movies into English. Even when doing this seemingly simple and straightforward work I had to change a lot of details to make them comprehensible to English speaking people. Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika is a lot more complex than any monster movie. For one thing it is a poem. A poem isn’t like an instruction manual in which there is only one correct way to interpret its meaning. There are as many ways to understand a poem as there are people to read it and all of them are valid in their own right.”

I also said in the afterword, “I still don’t know whether it will be accepted as a translation of Nagarjuna or not. I’m anticipating that a lot of scholarly types will debate its merits as a translation without ever giving the philosophical points contained within it much notice. If they do so, that would be a shame.” This seems to be precisely what is happening. The current critics on Amazon don’t really comment on the actual contents of the book. One even admits that he hasn’t read it! Is it fair to criticize a book you have not even bothered to read?

Kumarajiva was a fifth century Indian scholar who translated many of the canonical works of Buddhism into Chinese. His translation of the Heart Sutra is still chanted in Buddhist monasteries all over the world. Nishijima contends that when it came to Mulamadhyamikakarika, Kumarajiva got it wrong. He simply did not understand what Nagarjuna was talking about. Furthermore, Nishijima contends that all later translations and commentaries have relied upon Kumarajiva’s faulty understanding of the poem — even the very ancient ones. As evidence of this, Nishijima notes that Dogen quotes extensively from Nagarjuna’s other works but never mentions Mulamadhyamikakarika, which is regarded as Nagarjuna’s masterwork. This, he says, is because Dogen had access only to Kumarajiva’s translation and found it lacking. Therefore Nishijima deliberately avoided consulting any other translations of the work either in English or in Japanese. It’s no wonder then that his translation does not sound much like any of the others.

I said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a damned good book. If you are interested in knowing what I learned in fifteen years of studying Buddhism under Gudo Nishijima, most of it is in this book. It is deep and difficult Buddhist philosophy. Nishijima Roshi believes that all of these ideas are present in Nagarjuna’s poem. I trust that he found them there. But whether they are really there or not, I know that it’s valuable stuff. If he found all of this philosophy in the wood grain of the wall he sat in front of every day for seventy years it would still be valuable stuff. Maybe he did but he thought it would be more believable to say he found it in Nagarjuna! (That’s a joke, he was very methodical in his translation and he presents his translation methods to readers of the book very clearly. This is something few others have done.)

Some of you have written to me saying you’ve ordered the book or that you bought it in a store (hooray for you for supporting bookstores!). If you have read the book and you like it, please take a moment to go to Amazon and express your feelings. It would really help out a lot.

Thanks!

252 comments:

1 – 200 of 252   Newer›   Newest»
Mysterion said...

Garfield, Jay, (1995) The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. Oxford University Press.

and

Inada, Kenneth, (1970) Nagarjuna: A Translation of his Mulamadhyamikakarika. Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press.

are previous translations. The latter being a scholarly work.

And there is also a considerable amount of folklore surrounding Nagarjuna to begin with...

I'ld say let the chips fall where they may.

Mysterion said...

I'll save others from clicking on the Nagarjuna LINK and reading the whole page.

"Nag'arjuna: The Indian mahasiddha, Nagarjuna, received his illuminating insights and tantric empowerment with the help of the nagas in the lake beside which he meditated. Nagarjuna is one of the main champions of Buddhist philosophy, and is traditionally portrayed with a sunshade or halo formed by a multi-headed serpent. He is called the Second Buddha, partly in tribute to his having established the Madhyamaka [Middle-Way, ie. neither materialist nor nihilist nor idealist] school of philosophy.

See the Buddha's protector-naga in the process of transforming into Nagarjuna unsheathing the sword of wisdom at the Asian Art web site.

As there are serpents in Tibet, and nagas known as kLu play a role in the symbolism of Himalayan Buddhism and in Tibetan mythology, so Nagarjuna is known as Lu-trub.

The tradition of Sera Monastery holds that when Sakya Yeshe was on his way back from visiting China, it so happened that the set of Tengyur (Buddhist scriptures) donated by the emperor fell into the water while the party was fording a river. The travellers could see that the texts were hopelessly lost and so, distraught, they continued on their way back to Sera.

When the caravan finally got back, the monks told them that just before their return, an old man with attendants had visited Sera and presented a set of scriptures to the monastery. He said that he was delivering it for Sakya Yeshe. It was believed that the old man was really a Naga king, for when the texts were examined, it was found that they were still a bit damp."

CAPCHA=inkmar

Fred said...

There's a lot of angry people out
there with mental disorders. Some
of them call themselves Buddhists.

Steve said...

I have ordered the book and will write a positive review on Amazon.

Fred said...

Looks like one of those sandstorms
crossing the desert, except this
one is a shitstorm. Put on your
raincoat and hunker down.

vinegardaoist said...

The covers look only remotely similar, the title is not exactly the same and the AUTHORS ARE DIFFERENT. People need to just get a life!

vinegardaoist said...

The only people who would confuse them have the brains of a codfish.

Anonymous said...

Brad, you write that Nishijima tried to get you to study sanskrit, but you didn’t. What I would like to know is, how well does Nishijima himself understand the dead language?

A translation is always an interpretation, of sorts, but the less you understand the original language, the more you have to invent/interpret yourself.

After having studied English in school for 9 or so years and used it both at work and in everyday life for a decade more I *might* attempt to translate some English text to my native language.

But I would never dream of translating some other language, like French of which I have only the most basic understanding, and presenting the result as an accurate representation of the original.

codfish said...

:(

anon #108 said...

Some of you may read this translation and agree with the two people who refused to continue working on this book because they felt the translation was wrong. Before you make that conclusion, though, I hope you work your way through the grammatical and translation notes to try and understand why it differs from the versions you’re more familiar with.

I haven't yet read the book, Brad. I want to and I'll buy it when I can afford it.

I'm assuming the grammar/translation notes follow the version of MMK Gudo published on his blog. Thing about the translation is that it's pretty clear Gudo has simply scanned the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary (in English) and picked a translation from a list of very many that are made available for any one word, and many of which have completely different, sometimes even antonymic meanings, as suits his purpose. His English is poor, and so is his grasp of Sanskrit. Not a recipe for a successful translation.

I'm no expert, but I have been studying Sanskrit seriously for the last six years, I can very often see just where he's made his mistakes (from reading the blog version). Those mistakes have led him not merely to choose subtly different forms of expression interpretively, but to arrive at completely alternate, erroneous readings of meaning - meanings that Nagarjuna could not possibly have meant.

An example from the MW Dictionary:

कारिका [kaarikaa - as in the title of the work] -

a female dancer...
a business...
trade...
concise statement in verse of (esp. philos. and gramm.) doctrines...
torment , torture...
interest...
Name of a plant...
the verses contained in his gramm. work vaakya-padiiya (q.v.)


If your understanding of the context and of Sanskrit grammar and syntax is sound, you'll choose "a concise statement in verse of (esp. philos. and gramm.) doctrines" when translating "Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa as the appropriate definition. If not, and if you're, say, a free-market economist seeking to relate Nagarjuna's work to your own, you might choose "trade", giving you as a title for your translation "The Fundamental Trade of the Middle way." That's exactly what Gudo has done, throughout. Of course, that doesn't invalidate what he has to say, but it may help you understand some of the reactions the book is bound to receive.

I hear what you say about the book's value aside from its 'idiosyncratic' translation, and I truly look forward to reading it out someday soon.

anon #108 said...

BTW...

One of those previous attempts to work with Gudo on the MMK led to this breakaway project (written with Gudo's blessing) which may still be available:

http://www.dogensangha.org.uk/nagarjuna.htm

- Clearly reflecting Gudo's interpretation of the MMK, but much more faithful to the original Sanskrit (includes complete original Sanskrit text with grammatical analysis, literal tranlslation, interpretaive translation and commentary). Not 'perfect' of course, but very well worth reading.

Anonymous said...

This book is not a translation it is a series of essays on what Nagarjuna means to Gudo Nishijima, that is all. So I can kind of agree with the negative reviewers on Amazon. The whole thing is a bit misleading.

anon #108 said...

Seems I wrote "I truly look forward to reading it out someday soon."

I've no plans to give public readings. But if the money's right...

Brad Warner said...

Anon #108, I understand your point. But one thing, Nishijima's English is not in any way shape or form poor. His spoken English is excellent. He taught it to himself with language tapes! His written English is... problematic.

Also he studied Sanskrit for a long time. He did much more than simply scan the dictionary. He worked on this thing for well over a decade. And he produced two different full Japanese translations (one was published, not sure about the other) before attempting an English one.

I really wish he was in a condition to address this kind of thing himself. Because there's a lot I don't know.

Brad Warner said...

Also, why is it necessary to leave comments anonymously? I'm allowing them for now. But I'd like to request that people use a name of some sort.

If you have something to say then stand behind it!

Mysterion said...

PERCEPTION.

I understood what it would be before it went into print.

Thus, I pre-ordered one a LONG time ago.

Let me guess, it's not Donald Trump's impression of an ancient Buddhist text...

The Date Detective said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

Fair enough Brad. I shouldn't make general assumptions about Gudo's language skills; I've never met him. I have seen examples of his English that indicate he's a highly intelligent, articulate man. But it's still clear, to me, that neither his English nor his Sanskrit is good enough to pull off any kind of translation of the MMK.

The Date Detective said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

(1.58pm deleted comment re-posted. Not sure why I took it down in the first place) - -

And you know, I think, that Mike Luetchford is my teacher, so I have the benefit some small insight into the history of the project and the real problems involved.

Hmm...10 quid, eh? Perhaps I'll splash out!

Malcolm

Fred said...

"Legend says that the beneath the fold mountains lies the sleeping Naga or dragon. When the Naga stirs the mountains will shake and terrible destruction will occur on earth."

anon #108 said...

Just to clarify any misunderstanding of what I meant by "[Gudo has] simply scanned the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary"...

Of course Gudo's Sanskrit skills consist of more than the ability to turn pages. You can't even use the Monier-Williams dictionary without a good grasp of the way the language works; you need to understand the way words derive from roots. It's also clear that Gudo has studied Sanskrit grammar.

But translators of ancient languages, however brilliant, must rely on a dictionary to some extent. I stand by my point about the way Gudo has used his.

a name of some sort said...

"Brad Warner said...
Also, why is it necessary to leave comments anonymously? I'm allowing them for now. But I'd like to request that people use a name of some sort."

I prefer to remain anonymous to avoid trolls, hackers and stalkers. Sometimes I like to use different names to match the contents of my comments. For example, I wrote the previous comment from "codfish". :)

Fred said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

Oh! And another thing.

My very first post on the interblogs was as 'jiblet' on Gudo's blog. I'd only been studying Sanskrit for a little while, but I'd already formed the cocky opinion that Gudo's Sanskrit/English wasn't good enough for the MMK and said so (under cover of concern for the confusion that might be engendered in truth-seekers, but presumably, in truth, for some self-ish motive or other).

Mike Cross picked up on my comment and pointed out that, in his experience, the issue wasn't so much an issue of language skills as of Gudo's firm conviction that he, Gudo, was right.

From what I've heard, seen and read of Gudo, Mike Cross's observation rings true. I hear the same in what Brad says about Gudo. Not that a firm conviction in your own rightness is necessarily a bad thing...I suppose. Without a few people believing in their own rightness nothing much would get done...perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Brad said: "Also, why is it necessary to leave comments anonymously? I'm allowing them for now. But I'd like to request that people use a name of some sort.

If you have something to say then stand behind it!"

Brad, This sounds so defensive in light of the new book and all. Why now? Get a grip dude. Anonymous posters are anonymous posters. they're not that important.

also, mysterion. fuck off. you are such a lamer douche.

anonymous anonymous said...

"also, mysterion. fuck off. you are such a lamer douche."

That sounds worse than I meant it. I love mysterion and his delusions. LOVE HIM.

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Although you may spend your life killing, you will not exhaust all your foes. But if you quell your own anger, your real enemy will be slain.

Fucknut McFakename said...

I can't stand the anonymous trolls who lack the courage to post with a name of some sort.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand the bloggers who lack the courage to post anonymously. It is painful to post the truth without any sort of validation.

Anonymous said...

But that's just me.

Sometimes I think Brad expects everyone to be like he is. Cool when things are going good, a mess when things get tough.

Anonymous said...

Also, if Brad doesn't already believe the worst, why should he care what gets said anonymously. People will say/think anything. Why can't they write it? It means NOTHING.

Fucknut McFakename said...

Anonymous, you hide behind your anonymous anonymity and it sickens me.

Fred said...

Nagarjuna said that emptiness is
empty as well, and there is nothing
to lean against, so the trashing
on Amazon, the shitstorm to come
is irrelevant.

One theory is as good as another

Anonymous said...

Fucknut, Someday we will all be courageous fucknuts. Or maybe not.

Fucknut McFakename said...

_/\_

*gasshos extremely deeply and then masturbates*

Anonymous said...

Fuck3nut McFuck3nut, thats my new
name.

Pauly McWalnuts said...

Where's that 7th Patriarch?

Farty McFuckface said...

I'm finally starting to see some balls around this place. Either post with a name of some sort or go home.

Oz from Oz said...

He's whacking his wallaby on the
other side of the curtain.

Anony McFuckface said...

I agree Fuckface. I'm a longtime Brad observer. Brad is not the guy he was 5 years ago. He was better then. Or I'm worse now..

Peristaltis McFuckface said...

Seeing you guys post here emboldens me. I shall now become a forum regular, thanks to my cousins Farty McFuckface and Anony McFuckface.

Wacking my Wallaby said...

Hey lets go trash Amazon reviews

Fucknut McFakename said...

Good idea. Let's create new names there and say bad things about Brad's book!

Fred said...

"The empty mountain: to see no men,
Barely earminded of men talking - countertones,
And antistrophic lights-and-shadows incoming deeper the deep-treed grove
Once more to glowlight the blue-green mosses - going up (The empty mountain...)"

Not Gerard Manly

Beauty

Anonymous said...

Brad puts in all this work and what does he get? Fucknut McFakenames and critical disrespect. Then Fred chimes in. it's lose lose lose.

REAL practitioner said...

The REALITY is all this artificial controversy over Amazon reviews is really helping his book sales.

Fruity McSuckbuckett said...

IS IT POSSIBLE THE BOOK REALLY SUCKS.. What if the reviewers are right? I'm just asking.

Anonymous said...

Who cares, they're all toilet paper.

Anonymous said...

ps. I might go buy... Who knows where the true wisdom is? Which translation is highest teaching... what a mugs game.

If all else fails i'll have a good supply.

Fred said...

So Nagarjuna has about 6 or 7
points. What's to mess up. The
reviewers are making a big hairy
deal about something they can't
begin to understand.

Some brilliant analysis would
just be bullshit for the
zen-flavored-ego to get high on,
anyway.

Fred said...

The true wisdom is in your grandma's diaper.

anon #108 said...

Dear Fucknut and the Fuckfaces ft. anonymous,

I like your material. I can do full lotus and backing vocals. Can I join?

Anonymous said...

Fucknut McFakename is really Jundo.

anon #108 said...

NO!!!

gutted.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is, the really sad thing is.. This thread is better than Gudo's last effort. What a tragic/perfect zen legacy.

chu said...

Nishijima cannot be questioned. Whatever mistakes he made were with correct motivation.
Warner on the other hand, should have done better.

REAL practitioner said...

Those who can't write, teach. And those who can't teach, translate.

anon #108 said...

Or vice versa, chu.

Anonymous said...

Steve said: "I have ordered the book and will write a positive review on Amazon."

Even if the book is a total piece of shit you will still praise it?

chu said...

Or vice versa, anon #108.

Yet I think Nishijima might have been the more enthusiastic partner in the project.

Khru said...

For the record, the book is absolutely fantastic (although I haven't read it yet).

This thread is equally fantastic but I've only read a few comments.

Carl said...

Hi Brad, like what you wrote in response to the so-called critics. I would love to read the book myself, but I live in China. Any chance there will be a Kindle version sometime soon?

an3drew said...

"real practitioner" said:

"Those who can't write, teach. And those who can't teach, translate."

those who can't translate write

those who can't write
translate

those with egg between the ears teach

those who don't know what egg is practice !

Oliver said...

I think the Amazon-Link in the post doesn't work. I haven't read another comment mentioning that.
This is the right link: http://amzn.com/0983358907

What?!? said...

Brad said... "Personally I did not notice that the title was the same as Garfield’s and that his was the only currently available English version that used this specific translation. Had I noticed this, I probably would have substituted something like “poem” for the word “wisdom” in the title. I regret having not done so, but it’s too late to change it now."

Are you fucking kidding me? You co-authored a translation of a text which almost every Buddhist newbie knows something about (MMK), and most of them from Garfield's translation at that! And you claim not to know the title?!? By the way, if you go to Amazon.com and search for 'Nagarjuna', guess which book comes up as #1? It begins with Garf...

Brad said..."It’s also not as if the intended readership are the kinds of people who’d buy the book without checking out who wrote it first. It’s an absurd allegation, but one that is repeated in four of the five negative reviews on Amazon."

Yeah, almost as absurd as claiming to know nothing about Garfield's translation.

Brad said..."The current critics on Amazon don’t really comment on the actual contents of the book. One even admits that he hasn’t read it! Is it fair to criticize a book you have not even bothered to read?

Is it fair to endorse a book you have not even bothered to read, Brad? Such as "A clear and concise commentary on one of Dogen's most difficult pieces.", which you admittedly wrote about Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen's Shobogenzo by Shohaku Okumura - without having read it!

Un-fucking-believable.

an3drew said...

i don't think anyone would confuse the covers !

the garfield translation is a vapid and spacy translation of what originally was vapid and spacy prose, nishijima's and warner's insight is that basically the Mulamadhyamikakarika is voynich and they have attempted a literary reconstruction which is the only way to go with it !

i think what's upsetting people is this notion that a revered classic can be voynich !

proulx michel said...

I happen to have read Mike Luetchford's "Between Heaven and Earth", a personal gift from the author. I found it extremely useful, both because of the translation notes, and the insights it provides. Even on the points championed by Mike that Nishijima's translation would be (or is) faulty, I would want to read the completed version done with Brad.

I happen to be a lover of poetry, and have often found that poetry gives a deeper insight into things than scholarly things. Having myself a Master's in History, I certainly would not advocate relying only upon poetry to have good insights into things, but I certainly believe both are necessary and complementary.

Moreover, there are countless examples of misinterpretations in ancient texts, be it only because, before the advent of printing, they were always copied by hand. Lines would go missing, others interpolated and so on. But even when that would not be the case, or that such mistakes would have been later corrected by collation of different versions, one typical mistake is the scribe not understanding a word that has gone out of use, or has changed meaning, and thus, finding, believing, it out of place, "corrects" it.
One such example is "angel". The original word, "aggelos" in greek, means "messenger". Period. So, if you send a messenger to someone, and later generations start understanding the word differently, would later readers think that you had commerce with angels of heavens? Or "christ". The word means "oiled". The hebrew corresponding word is "messiah" (that I'm sure you all know). But if the various Jewish communities at the beginning of our era were all expecting the messiah, and sometimes finding one, especially the religious fundies that existed even then ("Zealots"), would not any group of zealots following their own "oiled" be termed as "christians"?

Therefore, although I would be careful about the accurateness of Nishijima's version in terms of linguistics, I would by no means affirm that it is worthless, especially without having thoroughly read it before.

Natur said...

Liebe Leute, seid doch mal ein bisschen netter zueinander! Spricht hier eigentlich jemand deutsch oder versteht keiner was ich sage? :-)

an3drew said...

Religion oder nationalen Sozialismus macht für Arschlöcher!

an3drew said...

بذلك ، أي العرب؟

a name of some sort said...

It seems to me that Odie communicates the essence of the MMK better than Garfield.

john e mumbles said...

Despite the confusion and "controversy:"

Brad has a new book out, or one with his name on the cover along with his beloved teacher, an honor indeed!

That's a big deal, folks.

My sincere congratulations Brad.

Michael Dorfman said...

Brad:

I haven't read your translation yet, so I can't comment on its merits myself, but I think it is worth pointing out that three of the one-star reviewers on Amazon are major scholars in Madhyamaka studies in their own right, and know the text intimately.

Fred said...

"I haven't read your translation yet, so I can't comment on its merits myself, but I think it is worth pointing out that three of the one-star reviewers on Amazon are major scholars in Madhyamaka studies in their own right, and know the text intimately."

Yes, but do they know it from
praxis, from their heart and from
their soul.

When Nagarjuna speaks of the
making emptiness itself empty he
is redirecting awareness away
from theories and intellectualization.

Some Practicing Yogi said...

Practicing Yogi said:

"Taking the mind to it's limit of understanding and opening another realm of knowledge also encompasses the heart and this is where one can become befuddled.

Living and knowing emptiness on a moment to moment basis is empowering in alleviating all suffering. for oneself and others.It isn't an intellectual exercise that one masters today, it ust be kept in one's conscious, so periodic rereading is required.

Each reintroduction is more revealing and if my words annoy or bother your intellectual abilities, then you haven't understood.

anon #108 said...

Hi john,

As Gudo is most likely on his death-bed it would be nice if the publication of a Gudo/Warner collaboration were an occasion for celebration, plaudits and honours, but I fear this one may not be.

A friend of mine, someone very close to Mike Luetchford and a loyal servant of Dogen Sangha (no, not ML himself) has emailed me. He prefers not to engage in online banter/correspondence but said I could quote him. So here are his observations. I think they're worth passing on:

I remember Mike talking about the process of the translation at the time. He became extermely frustrated at Nishijima Roshi's refusal to accept that he had simply misunderstood the Sanskrit, this went on back and forth by email for months, maybe a couple of years. Eventually, having realised that he had reached a complete impasse, Mike decided to go it alone, and warned NR, in writing, that if he went ahead with publishing his translation he was in danger of ruining his reputation and casting a cloud over the enormous contribution of his life's work. NR still refused to budge. It was clear to Mike that anyone who understood Sanskrit would see that his understanding was just plain wrong. Brad's argument about intepretation makes no sense at all, it would be nice to see him acknowledge that those who can read and understand Sankrit might just actually have a point, after all, how can he possibly know?

I hope Brad hasn't underestimated the length of the shadow this publication could cast over Gudo's life's work. We'll see.

anon #108 said...

Fred and Some Practicing Yogi,

The issue, as I see it, is not Gudo's or Brad's or anyone else's understanding of "emptiness", whether informed by practice or not - the issue is the publication of this book as a translation of Nagarjuna's MMK.

Perhaps Brad should have listened to the warnings from informed friends and said 'No' to his elderly and revered teacher's Sanskrit translation. Maybe he could have said 'Yes' to working Gudo's thoughts on MMK into some other format – a collection of essays, perhaps, sans translation. Maybe he still can.

Fred said...

Brad, you know that when the words
" the balanced state of the
autonomic nervous system " come up,
rabid spittle begins to form at the
corners of the Buddhist scholar's
mouths. Gudo left that present for
you, like a burr attached to your
ass.

His is a positive review by a prof:

http://fionnchu.blogspot.com/2011/03/nagarjunas-fundamental-wisdom-of-middle.html

Brad Warner said...

Some clarifications on "What?!"'s comments:

What?! said:
Brad said... "Personally I did not notice that the title was the same as Garfield’s."

Are you fucking kidding me? You co-authored a translation of a text which almost every Buddhist newbie knows something about (MMK), and most of them from Garfield's translation at that! And you claim not to know the title?!?


You're confusing me with someone who is geeky about Buddhist texts. I really just am not. I didn't notice.

What?! said:
Brad said..."Is it fair to criticize a book you have not even bothered to read?

Is it fair to endorse a book you have not even bothered to read, Brad? Such as "A clear and concise commentary on one of Dogen's most difficult pieces.", which you admittedly wrote about Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen's Shobogenzo by Shohaku Okumura - without having read it!

Un-fucking-believable.


Where did you get the idea that I never read Okumura's book? I once told someone (you? who are you anyway and why can't you stand behind your criticisms?) that I had not read the entire Okumura book before I gave Wisdom Publications my blurb for it. That's not the same as not reading it at all. I read the first three chapters and could see that it was very good. Wisdom had a deadline to meet so I gave them the blurb before finishing the book.

Pay a little attention.

Fred said...

"In turn, these four aspects follow Gautama Buddha’s noble truth of letting go of desire, in the sense of accumulation of goods or ideas. Nishijima reasons that the Buddha meant that desire needed to be analyzed by a four-fold method such as Dogen used: a transition from the competing versions of philosophy based on (1) idealism; (2) materialism; (3) action in the present moment; and (4) inclusive reality. In turn, the MMK, as the editors relate its meaning, moves away from an over-idealistic, subjective and an over-material objective emphasis to an imperative based in action apart from linear time, neither looking at the past nor the future, but now. Reality enters as the only graspable situation that a practicing Buddhist can admit is true: the encounter with enlightenment, however transient."

Brad Warner said...

Thanks Fred!

Mysterion said...

anon #108 sed:
"Gudo's firm conviction that he, Gudo, was right."

Sometimes old people get set in their ways. We have to let people be the way they turn out to be...

I won't criticize Gudo for this but if he were only 50 or 60, I certainly would. The brain, like the rest of the body, looses elasticity in advanced aging. That is why I think people over the age of 72 should be forbidden from holding elected or appointed office. You have to draw the line somewhere.

CAPCHA=eadhen (eden)

Brad Warner said...

Anon #108 said:
I hope Brad hasn't underestimated the length of the shadow this publication could cast over Gudo's life's work. We'll see.

I think the fears about damage to Nishijima's reputation are a bit over-the-top. At worst people will say he was a bad translator of Sanskrit.

On the other hand, isn't it even remotely possible that he has uncovered elements present in the original that others have overlooked?

Poets often choose words with multiple shades of meaning quite deliberately, knowing that different readers will understand them differently. I do that myself all the time.

I believe the scholars may have good points. But I do not understand their extreme anger over this. Is there really any cause for such an emotional reaction? They can always publish their own versions as a counterpoint. They'll probably sell more than Nishijima's anyway!

Fred said...

The balanced autonomic nervous
system means straight up the
middle, not veering to the
cholinergic or the adrenergic
side of engagement with action
right here, now.

Brad Warner said...

Fred said:
Brad, you know that when the words
" the balanced state of the
autonomic nervous system " come up,
rabid spittle begins to form at the
corners of the Buddhist scholar's
mouths. Gudo left that present for
you, like a burr attached to your
ass.


This may be true. But I'm sure I'll never understand why they react this way.

anon #108 said...

Brad wrote: On the other hand, isn't it even remotely possible that he has uncovered elements present in the original that others have overlooked?

Sure Brad, it's possible...very remotely possible ;)

I believe the scholars may have good points. But I do not understand their extreme anger over this.

I don't see that the scholars (which ones are supposed to be the scholars?) are angry so much as frustrated, incredulous. It's very hard to identify moods/attitudes like anger on the internet, I think. But it is remotely possible they're a tad pissed off, I grant you. I'm not!

Poets often choose words with multiple shades of meaning quite deliberately...

Well, as I see him, Nags is not really a poet in the usual sense. He's a philosopher, writing philosophy in the way it was very often written in them days; in metric verse. That does mean clear prosaic meaning is often sacrificed for aesthetic reasons, but "multiple shades of (poetic) meaning" is not what's going on on MMK, IMHO.


- Pop round my gaff next time you're in town Brad (get Andrew - see email above - to give me a ring) and I'll take you step by step through some of Gudo's more remarkable 'interpretations' from the Sanskrit. We'll have lots of fun!!!

anon #108 said...

Brad: I think the fears about damage to Nishijima's reputation are a bit over-the-top. At worst people will say he was a bad translator of Sanskrit.

On reflection, you may be right about that. Like I said...Hope so. And we'll see.

proulx michel said...

Natur said...

Liebe Leute, seid doch mal ein bisschen netter zueinander! Spricht hier eigentlich jemand deutsch oder versteht keiner was ich sage? :-)
Ich, mindestens. Aber Tröller werden nicht gestillen. Nur das Licht des Tages wird ihnen auf Steine ändern...

Michael Dorfman said...

I think it is worth pointing out that three of the one-star reviewers on Amazon are major scholars in Madhyamaka studies in their own right, and know the text intimately.

I have enough scholars in my family to know intimately that their learning never impedes them from the occasional possibility of being complete arseholes.

Brad Warner said...

Carl said:
Hi Brad, like what you wrote in response to the so-called critics. I would love to read the book myself, but I live in China. Any chance there will be a Kindle version sometime soon?

Yes. I'm not sure when it'll be available. But there will be one. I had thought there would be a simultaneous release. But I think there are some issues with the Sanskrit font holding it up.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading Gudo Nishijima’s translation and commentary on Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way.

Each translation and commentary I read gives me a deeper insight in to the text and teachings.

I actually like the title he chose,"Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way".

It distinguishes it from other translations,
and although "Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way" may be a word for word tranlation of the title, Nishijima's gives the gist of it. Or points, like the finger, directly to the moon.

The Mūlamadhyamakakārikā is like an exposition/commentary of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras (Perfection of Wisdom Sutras), the Heart Sutra, and for Zen the Sandokai, among other texts.

The Middle Way or Middle Path (madhyamā) of pratītyasamutpāda (Dependent origination or dependent arising) is the position of/from Prajna (Wisdom)

"The emptiness of the conquerors was taught in order to do away with all philosophical views."

Nagarjuna

"Buddhas say emptiness
Is relinquishing opinions."

Nagarjuna

Fred said...

Brad said: "This may be true. But I'm sure I'll never understand why they react this way."

In real life there is a union
between the actor and the action.

A reflection of this in words fails
to capture the essence of what is.

So those who believe the orthodox
nature of words fail to grasp what
is

They are trapped in justifying a
position with more words

Fred said...

Pure Voynich says Andy.

Luca said...

Brad,
God bless you, you always mention how you don't make a lot of money from writing. I bought all your other books, and I just didn't know this one was out.
I don't know wether you are actually making some cash from this one, but please in the future mention regularly your writings and especially new stuff coming out.
I can understand you're not a big marketer, but ffs some people actually like you (amazing huh? ;-)) and would like to buy your stuff if you just reminded them.
I'll write a review on amazon after reading the first three chapters (hehe).
cheers and keep up the good work.
Luca

Anonymous said...

中 道

Middle Way


Zhong Tao (Chinese )
Chu Do (Japanese)

anon #108 said...

Hi 9.06am,

You wrote: "Each translation and commentary I read gives me a deeper insight in to the text and teachings."

And you offered:

"The emptiness of the conquerors was taught in order to do away with all philosophical views." Nagarjuna

"Buddhas say emptiness
Is relinquishing opinions." Nagarjuna

Those look like snippets from versions of the very last verse of MMK. Perhaps I can deepen your insight with yet another version of the same verse:

"I salute (namasyaami) the poisonous one (gautamam) who (yaH) pitifully (anukampaamupaadaaya) taught (adezayat) the true justice (saddharmam) is for the slaughtering (prahaaNaaya) all faculty of seeing (sarva-dRSTi).

And so a freer, but absolutely faithful-to-the-sanskrit version of that verse might be:

“I salute the Poisonous One who, pathetically, taught that true justice is to make the whole world blind.

Absolutely literal and 100% grammatically correct, I promise you.

Of course, the verse is usually translated something like this:

"He who in order to relinquish all views
Taught the true dharma
By compassionate means -
To him, to Gautama, I pay homage."

(my translation)

I suppose they’re both right.

- Just having a little fun. I understand and agree with your point. But my point, and the crazy translation that I used to make it, is serious too.

anon #108 said...

For any Sanskrit student who wants to challenge my alternate translation, here's the original:

sarvadRSTi-prahaaNaaya yaH saddharmaM adezayat
anukampaam upaadaaya taM namasyaami gautamaM

Natur said...

proulx michel said...

"Ich, mindestens. Aber Tröller werden nicht gestillen. Nur das Licht des Tages wird ihnen auf Steine ändern..."

Hehe, what did you want to say? I love it when american people try to speak german. But thank you for trying! :-)

Seid doch nett zu einandern meine lieben. Das Leben ist doch so schön!

Fred said...

Er ist nicht ein Americanischer

anon #108 said...

And for anyone who's still taking a blind bit of notice, 9.06am's snippets were from the last verse of chapter 13, verse 8.

Uku said...

Hi all,

I haven't yet read Nishijima Roshi's and Brad's book, but I have ordered it and it should arrive during next week. I'm gonna write a review about it whether I think it's great or full of crap. But I doubt it's crap. I believe it's gonna be good. I trust in Nishijima Roshi's and Brad's skills. Why? Because they both have been practicing zazen and Buddhism a long time. Maybe Nishijima Roshi isn't the most talented Sanskrit translator but he has something else that most of the translators doesn't have: Nagarjuna was a Buddhist and his teachings are for Buddhists. Nishijima Roshi is a Buddhist and he knows the context a lot better than most of you and most of the scholars.

This same battle is familiar in the Dogen's context: scholars who haven't practice zazen at all, are telling to Buddhists what zazen and Dogen's teachings are all about. Same goes with Nagarjuna's teachings. Funny indeed.

Brad Warner said...

Anon 108:

I appreciate what you're saying. Honestly I do. But just so we're clear, this is N's translation of that verse:

I worship Gautama Buddha as a person who perceived miscellaneous doctrines as pitiable.

It's not a million miles off from yours, I think.

Joe said...

If you want the real deal, well, here ya go:

http://dharmafield.org/courses/middlewayCD.htm

Comparative analysis of five versions...

anon #108 said...

Brad,

I believe you when you say you appreciate what I'm saying. I'm not trying to give you a hard time. What can I tell you? Perhaps only that the translation is worse than you think. I get the impression you think it's not so awful.

Are you saying GUdo's version of that verse comes close to my 'crazy-but-literal' version (surely not, that wouldn't be good). I guess you're saying it comes close (enough) to my 'proper' version? Well OK...I won't be pedantic about it. It's says something loosely similar.

But there are SO many other verses (from the blog) that are SO way off the mark - those are the ones I'm talking when I say the translation is daft/embarrassingly poor/shit. Those are the ones I spoofed with the "whole world blind" translation. I took all those meanings straight from MW's definitions of the words in the verse and followed the grammar. And I'm saying that's EXACTLY what Gudo's done far too often, and with similar results: arriving at a completely different meaning to what anyone could reasonably suggest Nagarjuna might have meant.

Mysterion said...

I once worked in the Training and Technical Publications Department of a Professional Products Group (e.g. top-of-the-line) within International Marketing.

We had a Stanford Ph.D. (and I am not kidding) who was born and raised in Okinawa (which isn't exactly Japan) who would come to me for translation help.

Why?

Because the literal words do not convey the contextual meaning.

Nishijima attempted to restore (with some notable success) the contextual meaning of the verses in the MMK. Garfield, who admits a shortfall in Buddhalogical analysis, did a reasonable accurate but much more literal translation.

Thank whatever gods may be for computer literal translations. Computers, although making some obvious errors, have no dog in the fight. You can at least take the machine translation and compare it to classical and modern translations to get (for the most part) a reasonable idea of what the text is trying to transmit.

Were I writing for publication, I would require the concurrence of at least THREE credible scholars in the field. I have extensive experience with religious scriptures (as folklore) and can safely say the BULLSHIT far outweighs the content - which is why I so safely shovel the former over the latter.

And I am serious. It takes a Nishijima to cut through the BULLSHIT.

When my wife was taking a Classical Japanese class at UC Berkeley and the (white, male) prof. translated "the blue hills around Nara" as "the green mountains" I told her to FIRE UC Berkeley as an education vendor, which she did! "Green" did not exist during the period that the piece was written!

"The four oldest color terms, aka (red), kuro (black), shiro (white), and ao (blue) were written in the 8th Century."
source

So was it green or blue, hills or mountains? There is a difference.

In a later period, Ao (a blue-green corresponding to turquoise-green) and Moegi (sprout-green) were introduced.

Now, let's go back to 150 CE...

CAPCHA = malko

mal = malconent
ko = girl
(my wife, at UC Berkeley)

Anonymous said...

@ anon#108

you are correct, it is verse 8 of chapter 13.

"Emptiness is proclaimed by the victorious one as the refutation of all viewpoints;
But those who hold "emptiness" as a viewpoint—the true perceivers have called those "incurable" (asadhya)"

(Frederick J. Streng translation)
_______________________

8. The Conquerors taught emptiness as the forsaking of all views. Those who view emptiness are taught to be without realisation [incurable/incorrigible].

(Stephen Batchelor translation)
_______________________

Tsongkhapa quotes a large chunk of the Kasyapaparivarta, which concludes with this passage:

“The Bhagavan said: ‘Likewise, Kasyapa, if emptiness is the emerging from (forsaking of) all views, then Kasyapa, he who views emptiness alone cannot possibly be cured.”
__________________________
confer

Sandokai

"To encounter the absolute is not yet enlightenment."
or
"according with sameness is still not enlightenment."

http://home.pon.net/wildrose/agreevar.htm

------------------------
great point about translations,
Red Pine (Bill Porter)has some really great things to say about translating

Heart Sutra Retreat, Part 1

http://redcedarzen.org/public/index.php/2008/02/heart-sutra-retreat-part-1/

Heart Sutra Retreat, Part 2

http://redcedarzen.org/public/index.php/2008/02/heart-sutra-retreat-part-2/

much respect

gassho

anon #108 said...

...I wanted to be conciliatory, Brad, but Gudo's version is still a mess:

"I worship Gautama Buddha as a person who perceived miscellaneous doctrines as pitiable."

(Are we talking about ch27 v30 or Ch13 v8? There are similarities.)

If it is Ch27, v30 - the one I translated, then:

It's not the doctrines that are pitiable..in fact nothing in that verse is 'pitiable'. Gudo must get pitiable from "anukampaam upaadaaya". "Anukampa" means sympathy/compassion - pity in THAT sense - not in the sense of "pathetic". That's why I deliberately twisted the meaning in my spoof verse. I had no idea Gudo had made the very same mistake! And is IS a mistake, because...

"Anukampa" with "upaadaaya" (by means of) when put together, come to mean "by means of compassion/compassionately". That adverbial phrase modifies "He taught the true Dharma", not "miscellaneous doctrines" (which must be his translation of "sarva-dRSTi", all views)...It's not the doctrines that are pitiable or compassionate; the compassion modifies the true Dharma. The metre, syntax and principles of Sanskrit agreement all point that way.

And so it goes. Even this verse of Gudo's, which you give as a 'close-to-mine' example...is a mess. I'm sad to say.

anon #108 said...

Thanks, 12.37pm - I'll check out the red pine links later - after "I'm a Celebruty, Get me Out of Here! :)

anon #108 said...

A quickie while IACGMOOH recaps -

Chas, if you're saying that this translation of the last verse of MMK:

“I salute the Poisonous One who, pathetically, taught that true justice is to make the whole world blind.”

is a valuable contribution to Nagarjuna studies and to Buddhist practice, then perhaps I understand what you're saying. If not, then...whatever, mate ;)

Fred said...

"When my wife was taking a Classical Japanese class at UC Berkeley and the (white, male) prof. translated "the blue hills around Nara" as "the green mountains"

Peter Boodberg?

Zippy Rinpoche said...

I am protected by the power of stain-reistant Scotchguard.

Mysterion said...

BTW - a secret society known as 'the snakes' (nagas) still exists to this day. And that is not folklore. The underground nagas could well be a metaphor for, among other things, a secret 'order of the snakes.' I'll post a quote from Kenneth R. Hall later.

It may well be that there were public and secret teachings in Buddhism. We may never know.

What is clear is that Buddhism was a radical rejection of Brahmanism - religious authority. And in the prevailing Hindu culture - Brahma being the highest caste (the priestcraft) - being a Buddhist was not the best way to win friends and influence people.

see also: Lord Jagannath*

Far better the link above in the broken English than in the retyping of it at my expense.

CAOWKI GHAT: famous for the Ficus religiosa tree at the top of the Steps which shelter stone figures of snakes, nagas. Close to this tree is the shrine of Rukmangesvara, and in the distance is Naga Kupa or the Snake Well.

Fred said...

Carlos Castaneda :

"What I have struggled to vanquish, or rather suppress in you, is not your reason as the capacity for rational thought, but your attention of the tonal , or your awareness of the world of common sense. The daily world exists because we know how to hold its images; consequently, if one drops the attention needed to maintain those images, the world collapses.
Practice is what counts. Once you get your attention on the images of your dream, your attention is hooked for good. In the end you can hold the images of any dream.
Our first ring of power is engaged very early in our lives and we live under the impression that that is all there is to us. Our second ring of power , the attention of the nagual , remains hidden for the immense majority of us, and only at the moment of our death is it revealed to us. There is a pathway to reach it, however, which is available to every one of us, but which only sorcerers take, and that pathway is through dreaming . Dreaming is in essence the transformation of ordinary dreams into affairs involving volition."

an3drew said...

“I salute the Poisonous One who, pathetically, taught that true justice is to make the whole world blind.”

infinity is abitch, in punishment she made the world blind!

اللانهاية هو الكلبة، في العقوبة انها جعلت العالم الأعمى!

an3drew said...

آه أتذكر العواصف الصحراوية

an3drew said...

ط الضحك بصوت عال! : o )

an3drew said...

fred , wang wei good, carlos castaneda bad !

Mysterion said...

First: Reject dualism.

Fucknut McFakename said...

Dualism is just a word. Do with it what you will.

john e mumbles said...

Pretty funny how you are putting your exclamation points at THE BEGINNING of those Arabic sentences, An3drew. It reads right to left ! ;O

Furburger Squirts said...

Heh heh. Wrong again An3drew.

an3drew said...

first: reject crap !

an3drew said...

"Pretty funny how you are putting your exclamation points at THE BEGINNING"

نعم ينبغي أن تكون في الطرف الآخر

Fred said...

Hey, come on guys, it's not easy
being a 7th Zen Patriarch. There's
a lot of responsibilty involved,
and the pay's crappy.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
an3drew said...

furburger

كنت رجلا الجبان الاخضر من المريخ

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Just ordered my copy! Ha ha he he...

I don't care if it's all wrong. I like the way ol' Nishijima Sensei thinks.

john e mumbles said...

You're welcome, An3drew. Its alright, I don't understand Voynich.

What do you make of this (Voynich)trans? Maybe you can do a poetic rendering?

Povere leter rimon mist(e) ispero

Which translates into English as follows:

Plain letter reassemble mixed inspire

an3drew said...

there you are fred, immortalised, in 600 years this will be a koan, "fred gets dissed by the 7th patriarch again !"

an3drew said...

"Povere leter rimon mist(e) ispero"

i hope the poor letters remain  mixed !

Anonymous said...

this blog reminds me of bird brawl

an3drew said...

i hope the poor letters remain jumbled but create the illusion of making sensible words

an3drew said...

"this blog reminds me of bird brawl"

bok with a meat cleaver !

an3drew said...

first: infinity is a process

no

matter

where

you

are

you
are

part

of
that
process !

Korey said...

Bradley, what's up brother?

It's pretty clear you're a busy dude. In your recent magazine interview you stated, to my surprise, that the average amount of time it takes you to complete and edit a blog entry is usually two and a half hours. And you do a lot of blogging.

You also do a lot of writing for other books, co-authoring books, doing interviews, going on tours with long retreats, sitting zazen etc.

So when do you get time to listen to music? You're obviously a huge music guy. How much music do you indulge in on average? Where do you get the time? Do you usually pop on your tunes when you're writing your blogs, during recreational web browsing, or what?

Anonymous said...

Brad, I can't understand why you would ever want to moderate/censor the comments. Sometimes they're ignorant but they're never bad. Also, you have expressed a wish that people should not hide behind anonymity. Doing that takes a certain level of trust. Some of us aren't there yet.

an3drew said...

anon #108, i suppose you will ignore this but your completely literal and literal and 100% "faithful to the sanskrit" translations of the MMK are outstanding and there's nothing else around like them as far as i can see !

the literal translations seem to hit a spot that the more interpretive ones don't get to!

why not put some up on the web?

Brad Warner said...

Fred said

"When my wife was taking a Classical Japanese class at UC Berkeley and the (white, male) prof. translated "the blue hills around Nara" as "the green mountains"

The word 青い (aoi) can be translated as blue or green. In Japanese the colors we call blue & green are considered to be shades of the same color. The word みどり (midori) is sometimes used to refer to what we call green, i.e. the color of grass or jade.

Translation is a bitch.

jundo cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

an3drew -

Thanks for the positive review. I never ignore you or your suggestions. You're kinda hard to ignore.

Anonymous said...

Hello Brad,

is your tour finished now, or where will you practice zazen the next months. I wanted to come to Bielefeld, but it was impossible. But i want to do a sesshin.
I will take the Anonymous button, because i dont understand what to write on this other buttons.

Greetings Heike

anon #108 said...

BTW and FWIW -

I did make a (proper) mistake in my 'Poisonous' translation (re prahaaNaaya). Cool props to anyone who spotted it and the reason for it. Doesn't affect the result/sense though. In any event, easily made mistakes are what I'm talking about.

PhilBob wrote: I don't care if it's all wrong. I like the way ol' Nishijima Sensei thinks.

Yep. That's what I'm hoping to find - some 'late period Gudo meets middling period Odo. Maybe the translation won't get in the way.

Fucknut McFakename said...

Jundo thinks he has repaid Brad in spades for calling him Gummo. Or something like that.

Fuckname McFakenut said...

"Nishijima Roshi told me that all my concerns about his grasp of Sanskrit could be put aside because (as I understood his explanation) Master Nargarjuna was either visiting Nishijima Roshi in his dreams, or directly in his thoughts, and whispering the correct meaning to him"

Totally uncool to post that. Wow.

If you don't get it, I can't explain it to you, Mr. Zen Teacher.

jundo cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Jundo, at some point, wouldn't it make sense to just give up the fight? Just saying...

a name of some sort said...

Do any of the "Sanskrit scholars" and/or "Buddhist academics" commenting here know if all of Nagarjuna's writings are as difficult to translate as the MMK? I'm just wondering if that would add some credence to the claim made by some Theravada Buddhists that Zen (Chan) is actually a Chinese and Japanese distortion or corruption of Buddhism.

anon #108 said...

Hi a name of some sort,

I'm a student of Sanskrit. I've not taken more than a passing glance at Nargarjuna's other work (I looked at a couple of verses of the Ratnavali once). And I'm certainly no Buddhologist....

IMO, the problem with translating N is not so much that his Sanskrit is difficult, in fact it's pretty simple as Sanskrit goes. The problem is in nailing what on earth he's talking about.

For example, it's often not clear whether he's quoting an opposing view and then criticising it (which would definitely seem to be the case in some places), or stating his own opinion. The versified statements are necessarily terse and the space between one verse to another often leaves a lot of room for speculation.

It does seem clear that his intention was to take key, accepted concepts of Buddhism (nirvana, 4NTs etc) and many of the Abhidharma positions on those 'things', and others, and examine/challenge them. And all this around/about the second century AD - a long time ago; some of the subtle shades of doctrinal differences and expression may be lost to us for ever.

So it's not the Sanskrit that's so much the problem...or rather, it shouldn't be.

What relevance any of that has to the question "Is Zen Buddhism?" I've no idea.

While I'm here...

In his review, I don't hear Jundo 'fighting' any more than anyone else with an opinion about, and/or a personal involvement with this project. Regardless of any specific issues anyone might have with Jundo's specific comments about the book, he's certainly entitled to publish them on this blog.

Fred said...

If we live long enough we will all
get dementia. It is a NATURAL
process in the universe.

If you let go of your prejudices,
your beliefs, your boundaries of
what is, you would allow Gudo to
be who he is at 92 and not CLING
to some concept of perfect
erudition.

And that is why Brad is Dharmma
heir, because of his capacity to
love what is.

Fred said...

Jundo, your words have an agenda
rooted in ego, and every sentence
you make can be deconstructed.

Let it go, and move on with your
practice.

john e mumbles said...

In my work I have had many encounters and relationships with persons with dementia.

In my opinion it is simply the prejudice (and often fear) of those of us still "with our faculties intact" (I write this with tongue firmly in cheek) to be so bold as to judge this stage of life as "inferior" to any other.

Who is to say, except those experiencing it, what it is?

anon #108 said...

Fred, what you wrote @5.59am is true for all of us, not just for some guy you look down on.

Let him without an agenda rooted in ego utter the first undeconstructible words.

Fred said...

anon #108 said...
"Fred, what you wrote @5.59am is true for all of us, not just for some guy you look down on.

Let him without an agenda rooted in ego utter the first undeconstructible words."

Why do you assume that I look down
on Jundo? If your name is Malcolm,
I could not find it on the UK
sangha members.

Anonymous said...

108: You sound a tad Jesus-like in your comment. It's cool tho.

anon #108 said...

Why do you assume that I look down
on Jundo?


That's the impression I formed from what you wrote, Fred.

If your name is Malcolm,
I could not find it on the UK
sangha members.


I can't see the relevance of that comment...to anything. Perhaps you could explain?

But yes - my name is Malcolm Markovich. Would you also tell me what "the UK sangha members" is and give a link. Thanks.

(Anonymous @6.51am - That was the idea. Well spotted.)

Fred said...

"Let him without an agenda rooted in ego utter the first undeconstructible words."

So what you are saying is that the
fact that we all have egos, makes
certain indescretions justifiable.

A man can put on the robes, but he
is off the hook for his actions,
because there's that darn pesky
ego acting up again.

Don't think so. And the plausible
justifications, that ego employs,
are just deeper into the stuff,
twice removed from reality.

The dream within the dream.

Anonymous Bob said...

"I will give '3 stars' to this book ... representing the Middle Way. In part, I want to award '5 stars' recognizing the heart that Nishijima Roshi placed into the project. Part of me wants to award '1 star' for the result in terms of the "translation" that resulted."

108, Ha Ha.. Don't you wonder why Jundo would want to involve himself in this 'discussion' let alone write a lengthy review to Amazon? Personally, I don't think it had anything to do with being helpful. To me it looks like he's taking a well-timed, below the belt shot at a hated enemy in a vulnerable position. Because unlike your gentle self, Jundo lives for bloody confrontation. "Pelle sub agnina latitat mens saepe lupina"

CAPTCHA : mounth : I kid you not

Fred said...

"108, Ha Ha.. Don't you wonder why Jundo would want to involve himself in this 'discussion' let alone write a lengthy review to Amazon? Personally, I don't think it had anything to do with being helpful. To me it looks like he's taking a well-timed, below the belt shot at a hated enemy in a vulnerable position. Because unlike your gentle self, Jundo lives for bloody confrontation. "Pelle sub agnina latitat mens saepe lupina"

That's too bad. Is all of Zen like this?

Brad Warner said...

Anonymous Bob, I have to agree with you.

For the record the statement, "Nishijima Roshi told me that all my concerns about his grasp of Sanskrit could be put aside because (as I understood his explanation) Master Nargarjuna was either visiting Nishijima Roshi in his dreams, or directly in his thoughts, and whispering the correct meaning to him," is untrue.

I can say this with complete conviction even having not been present at the conversation in question. I know Nishijima Roshi very well and this is not the kind of thing he would ever say. It goes so wholly against everything else he has ever said about such experiences that it is impossible for me to believe that he ever said anything even remotely like this.

I have had a number of conversations with him about such mystical experiences and he completely denied their validity.

Brad Warner said...

Sorry everyone. I've turned comment moderation on again due to abuse of this forum. I'll work with the other administrator to get your comments up as quickly as possible.

anon #108 said...

I dunno, AB, Fred.

AB wrote:

"Don't you wonder why Jundo would want to involve himself in this 'discussion' let alone write a lengthy review to Amazon?"

Well, why would any of us get involved? Jundo's got more reason that most - he was a student of Gudo.

I must be thick, in denial...something. Certainly I've heard enough from and about Jundo to justify dismissing him as a hypocrite, a fool, a trouble maker and whatever else. But try as I might, I can't take to what he's posted in the way some of you have. And I promise you it's got nothing to do with his opinions on the translation being close to mine.

Some of the personal recollections in Jundo's review strike me as less than wholly honest - but who of us hasn't fooled themselves? Anyway, how the hell would I know what went on between him and Gudo? I wasn't there.

Point is, he's got every right - hasn't he? - to post his opinion on this blog without having to face the charge that just by doing so he's playing some dastardly game.

anon #108 said...

So Brad, you've removed Jundo's Amazon review and turned comment moderation back on...Like what he wrote was so awfully shockingly despicable?

I don't geddit, mate. Not at all :/

Brad Warner said...

Anon #108

So Brad, you've removed Jundo's Amazon review and turned comment moderation back on...Like what he wrote was so awfully shockingly despicable?

It was utterly inappropriate. He has his own forum to post things like this on. I won't host them any longer.

Also, as I said a few comments above, the statement about Nishijima claiming to have been visited in dreams by Nagarjuna is untrue.

Besides, this is my blog.

anon #108 said...

OK. It is your blog. I geddit. We shall speak of him no more.

Mysterion said...

Blogger anon #108 said...
"Chas, if you're saying that this translation of the last verse of MMK:

“I salute the Poisonous One who, pathetically, taught that true justice is to make the whole world blind.”
**********************************

"The Poisonous One" blinded the world to justice.

What error is there in that?

We are talking about a folklore in which people and snakes are metaphorically interchangeable.

Although I reject good/bad dualism I can concede that there are people (even 'underground' or under lake people) who make the world a miserable place through their devotion to greed. Wall Street insiders and banksters come to mind.

Does it even occur to anyone (outside of the Occupy organizers) that this group has fleeced an entire generation of their ability to make a living in any semblance of comfort?

We are talking about hundreds of trillions of $ US. The entire foreign debts of some Sovereign Nations have been taken away in the old shell game (which shell contains the asset?).

Iceland, Greece, Italy, others...

Pension funds (public and private)...

so yes:

“I salute the Poisonous One who, pathetically, taught that true justice is to make the whole world blind.”

We salute (acknowledge) that evil exists - in spades. THAT, I think, is saying what I have been saying:

"Welcome to hell, now suffer."

Or the SS quote about hell being TRAINING.

On the other hand, the translation of that stanza is a bit on the literal side and could use some analysis...

Cheers,
Chas

Andrew said...

Malcom, If you'd knew more about Cohen's involvment with DS, if you'd seen the correspondence, witnessed the behaviours, and heard all of the facts, as Brad has, you might feel differently. This is a disturbed and malicious individual.

Yours as ever
Andrew

Mysterion said...

My impression of Jundo's hatchet job "Non-Dual Loyalties, November 18, 2011" at Amazon is that it's only another (more aggressive than passive) attempt to toot his own flute, play the victim, and advertise Treeleaf.

Every time the poor lad tries to wedge his foot in the door he walks off with an injured toe. One would thing he would learn.

Jundo has no more to do with DSI than I have to do with "Fuller Brush." Sad that he remains utterly unaware of this detail.

anon #108 said...

BTW Fred,

Somewhere up there, using phrases you'd coined, I wrote:

"Let him without an agenda rooted in ego utter the first undeconstructible words."

And you wrote:

"So what you are saying is that the
fact that we all have egos, makes
certain indescretions justifiable."

No, that's not what I'm saying at all.

alan sailer said...

Fred said :

"That's too bad. Is all of Zen like this"?

As far as I can tell, zen is like people.

Cheers.

Fred said...

"Let him without an agenda rooted in ego utter the first undeconstructible words."

I have no agenda rooted in ego.
When I first started posting with
" other " " Buddhists " (this
summer?) I was amazed at how
different this was from
intercourse of the 70's and 80's
and how so much of it was just
pure ego.

So my question is, was it always
this way?

anon #108 said...

Some (more) entertainment:

MP3s of talks from the Ancient Dragon Zen Gate "Bringing Dogen Down to Earth" conference are now up, here:

http://www.ancientdragon.org/dharma/dharma_talks_audio

I've just listened "Dōgen's Use of Koans" by Griffith Foulk. Good, I thought.

I read something about video going up somewhere sometime soon. Haven't found it yet, though.

***********************************

Hi Andrew me ol mate,

(Breaking my vow of silence...)

You know that I'm not entirely unaware of some of the stranger goings-on in DS and your character assessment may well be right - but I can only speak from my own experience. What I find interesting is that most of the folks here don't have the benefit of knowing what you know, yet they seem to see similar traits in everything he writes

I'm like this with Big Brother too - you know, off the telly. Everybody else is convinced that Aaron is a master manipulator and game player; I'm certain he's just a crazy mixed-up kid doing his best. (What you say may be true, Mysti, but that kind of motivation is hardly unique)) Like I said, I must be suffering from some deficiency or other ;)

K. I'll sat no more about Jundo, starting...soon. I know it would drive me nuts to see myself being discussed without a right of reply at the place it was happening.

anon #108 said...

Chas,

Just read your 8.39am "Poisonous" comments. That's what I thought you might be saying when you said what you said earlier.

May all your troubles be little ones,
Malc

Fred said...

"I am going to take the risk of popping in here for the very limited purpose of saying that Brad is totally right. I did voluntarily leave the organization known as Dogen Sangha (and Dogen Sangha International ... I myself and not clear if that is the same as Dogen Sangha) when we set up Treeleaf. However, I never left my relationship to Nishijima Roshi nor (in my mind at least) to my Dharma Brothers and Sisters. I thus do not and should not have any say in how that organization is run from the time I left because I am not a member.

For what it is worth, I think (as a mere third party observer) that Brad is doing very fine things with the organization. Though some may doubt it, I truly wish him the best with that and his other pursuits.

Gassho, J "

Then why post opinion of Gudo and
Brad's book, if you admit to having
no say in how things should be run
including the decision whether to
publish this book.

Anonymous said...

Brad, I wish you wouldn't give into the impulse to turn off the comments every so often. You can turn off a registered user's ability to comment on your blog at anytime. This is a very useful tool for utterly inappropriate and obsessive cyber-sangha leaders with axes to grind.

Anonymous said...

108, There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.

The point is, If you think Jundo is just weighing in with his honest opinion.. you've been fooled again. We've seen way too much of this stuff from him to believe it's something other than a chance to skewer the guy that took what was rightfully his. The love of Daddy.

Brad Warner said...

Anon said:

Brad, I wish you wouldn't give into the impulse to turn off the comments every so often. You can turn off a registered user's ability to comment on your blog at anytime. This is a very useful tool for utterly inappropriate and obsessive cyber-sangha leaders with axes to grind.

I'll look into this. Thanks for the suggestion!

Anonymous said...

Jundo just wants to be recognized and validated. That's it.

Convict said...

Blimey, what a hoo-hah. I'll have to check this book out sometime. On the subject of books, I really recommend 'The way to love' by Anthony de Mello, by the way. Not strictly a 'zen text', I should point out, but very helpful to practice.

anon #108 said...

[Brad, could you please do me a favour? Post this slightly edited version of my previous comment instead of the previous one (which starts the same and should be laying in your ‘to be moderated’ tray). And remove this bit. Many Thanks.]

A final word on…y’know. I need to make sure that I come out of this latest incident with my rep intact.

Previously, I've emerged a hero following encounters with JC. I've accused the man of dishonestly twisting the truth/re-writing history/being blind to his own faults/slandering others etc etc etc. All the good stuff. I'm now worried the world will think I'm just a nice, gentle guy, full of compassion and loving-kindness who can see no bad in folks.

This is not true.

I'm a screwed-up, arrogant, deluded shit with a head full of prejudice, hate and insecurity. I just assume everyone else is, too. So I'm not at all surprised when someone else comes along who's also a screwed-up, arrogant, deluded shit with a head full of prejudice, hate and insecurity. If that kind of stuff bars us from having honest, valid opinions, then I wonder who among us can be trusted ever to speak honestly and without ulterior motive.

Point is: My head is full of nasty shit. I am not nice. I am propa gangsta. Hope we've got that straight.

HCZ Moderator said...

@anon #108

I don't know how to edit comments that are submitted, so I couldn't remove the bracketed bits for you. I did some looking around but found nothing. If you can teach me how, I'll give it a go.

anon #108 said...

Perfectly OK, HCZ moderator. I kinda like it the way it is. Thanks for trying!

Fred said...

108, 1.what institution are you
posting from?

2. What Zen Patriarch are you?

3. Is there some new psychedelic
I haven't heard about?

4. You sound a lot like Praxis.

5. Thanks for the Ancient Dragon
Zen Gate.

anon #108 said...

Hi Fred,

1. Hmm...

2. Huh?

3. Not that I'm aware of.

4. I did sympathise with praxis and thought he was very badly treated, but I am not he.

5. You're very welcome.

Must go to sleep now. Pop group rehearsal in the morning. Nite Nite :)

Anonymous said...

Why in the world would Jundo post that here? Seriously.

I'm not trying to be an ass when I say that the poor guy is much more disturbed than I previously thought, and I've always thought he was fucked up in a major way.

john e mumbles said...

Malc 108 is an alumnus of Gryphon, a most prestigious institution indeed!

*Bass player extraordinaire*

*Erudite self-taught scholar of rare language and esoteric texts*

*Dedicated Zen practitioner & Bradblog mainstay commentator*

*Really good guy*

*...and right Propa Gangsta*

Lone Wolf said...

I'm looking forward to reading the book. Nice Tricycle article (especially the part about the teacup). Jundo is a strange person.

proulx michel said...

Hi Malc


Here's one in the same vein (albeit in German) "I am not nice"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUXHiZLos7g

[captcha: mologre]

anon #108 said...

Aww shucks, john e. Thanks.

Indeed, pm - "Hey, schau mich an!
Ich bin ein ganz normaler Mann." Big up google translate.

...And those captchas are just too spooky.

Mysterion said...

Comment moderation is a useful tool.

Sometimes silence is the better choice.

If one is unable to choose silence, then the comment moderation tool can intervene for the benefit of all.

CAPCHA = juric

McLOVIN said...

Brad Warner said...
"Also, why is it necessary to leave comments anonymously? I'm allowing them for now. But I'd like to request that people use a name of some sort.

If you have something to say then stand behind it!"


What I say today
may be different tomorrow.
not always so
And if there is no self,
why is it so important
to stand behind it?
anatman

Just sayin...

Anonymous Bob said...

"I'm not at all surprised when someone else comes along who's also a screwed-up, arrogant, deluded shit with a head full of prejudice, hate and insecurity. If that kind of stuff bars us from having honest, valid opinions, then I wonder who among us can be trusted ever to speak honestly and without ulterior motive."

108: I'm a cynical man but I think people can have honest opinions. It's just that our honest opinions are mainly crap. They started forming way before whichever current holder of them was born. So to speak without ulterior motive is damn near impossible IMO. Just witness the Jundo and Brad feud of which both of them would probably deny even existed.

CAPTCHA : ciatot : I kid you not

Fakey McFakename said...

Jundo is now re-posting his Amazon review elsewhere on the internet, and claiming to do so with "much sadness."

I won't give out links to where he's doing it, but it's within the Buddhist online world.

What in the world is the end-game with him?

Anonymous said...

One point. Brad has pretty much tried to divorce himself from having anything to do with Jundo. It is Jundo who keeps inserting himself into Brad's life over and over again. Brad does make comments seemingly trying to invalidate Jundo's ideas. But Jundo is the one who follows Brad everywhere online and makes a total pest of himself.

Mysterion said...

Jundo wanted the whole enchilada (DSI). That didn't work out so he went on his own path, never stepping back, never sniping, never interjecting an unwanted opinion.

I admire him.

CAPCHA = magnama

I kid you not (anout the Capcha)

Fred said...

Jiblet : " "Emptiness was explained by the victorious ones as the abandonment of all views;
They declared those for whom emptiness is a view incurable."

Anonymous said...

"I admire him."

I've never known you to display a subtle humor before.

Konstantin said...

In the words of the Buddha, "Haters gon' hate".

Mysterion said...

Blogger Fred said...
'Jiblet : " "Emptiness was explained'

One day, we may discuss the emptiness of nothingness...

Anonymous Bob said...

Jundo talks a lot about his great love and respect for his "dharma brother" Brad. Brad has written four popular books that are sold on Amazon. Jundo has never reviewed any of these popular books. He has had no inclination to review them positively or negatively. Jundo has reviewed only one book through Amazon. With the publication of the Nagarjuna book, Jundo felt a need to review it. Why do you think he wanted to review this particular book?

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 252   Newer› Newest»