SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XXVIII

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water. Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky. [Aitken & Tanahashi]

A person getting realization is like the moon reflected in water: the moon does not get wet, and the water is not broken. Though the light [of the moon] is wide and great, it can be reflected in a foot or an inch of water. The whole moon and the whole sky can be reflected in a dew-drop on a blade of grass or in a single drop of rain. Realization does not reshape a man, just as the moon does not pierce the water. A man does not hinder realization, just as a dew-drop does not hinder the sky and moon. The depth [of realization] may be the same as the concrete height [of the moon]. [To understand] its duration, we should examine large and small bodies of water, and notice the different widths of the sky and moon [when reflected in water]. [Nishijima]

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3 Responses to “SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XXVIII”

  1. Bob Says:

    Neither of these two translations is really satisfactory. Actually, they’re less than unsatisfactory, they’re just bad. By which I mean they say the wrong thing.A reasonably correct translation would start:”A person gaining satori is like the moon nestling in water. The moon remains dry, the water unbroken. A broad, intense glow nestles in inches of water; the entirety of the orb and arching sky both nestle even in the dew on a reed, nestle even in a single drop of water. Just as the moon does not pierce the water, satori does not rend the person. Just as the dewdrop does not obstruct the moon, the person does not obstruct satori.”This translation is not a rewording of existing English translations, but rather made directly from the Japanese, based on an intense, word-by-word analysis of the original text.One translation quoted above simply has “enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.” Unfortunately, nothing in this translation but the moon and the water matches the original. First, the original explicitly refers to a person and to his or her gaining of satori, elements which certainly should be preserved in translation. Second, the target of the analogy—-what the gaining of satori is being compared to—-is not the moon, reflected or otherwise, but rather the fact of the moon’s nestling in the water, the nestling itself. Third, the original clearly has the moon “nestling” (or “resting,” “being harbored,” or “being cradled”; less poetically, “being housed” or “being stationed”) rather than “reflected.” Why do people continue to quote translations which are so obviously wrong?The translation continues with one of the most difficult lines to be found anywhere in Dogen’s writings.”[One is] deep to the extent [the other] is high.”Despite what you’ll see in all the translations, the original makes no explicit mention of the moon, water, satori, or person, leaving the reader to make those connections. This translation mirrors the original inomitting these concrete references. A number of translations attempt to provide unwanted help by inserting words not present in the original. Examples include “the depth of the drop is the height of the moon”; “the deeper the moonlight reflected in the water, the higher the moon itself”; and “depths of the dewdrop cannot contain the heights of the moon and the sky” (although that translation seems to reverse the meaning). One contemporary Japanese translation goes so far as to insert words from the satori/person side of the analogy with “the depth of your self-knowledge is invariably the magnitude of the height [of the dharma]!The translation continues:”The longer you probe the shallows and depths, the broader the moon you should discern in the heavens.”Virtually every element of this sentence is subject to multiple interpretations, which has yielded a bewildering variety of translations (one translator simply omitted it, perhaps wisely). The original says literally “long-short of time (subj.), study big-water small-water, should/must determine moon’s width-narrowness.”Interpretations of the reference to time in this sentence range from the duration of the reflection, to the speed of the arrival of enlightenment or the length of time it persists. This translation assumes that it refers to the inspection or probing process—in other words, the length of practice.One popular translation imagines that instead of probing bodies of water of various sizes, or determining the width of the moon, what is involved here is “manifesting” the “vastness” of the dewdrop and “realizing” the “limitlessness” of the “moonlight in the sky.” One is at a loss where to start in analyzing this fanciful translation. The original does not refer to a dewdrop, but simply bodies of waters large and small; contains nothing that could be construed as “manifesting” them or their “vastness”; fails to refer to “realizing”; and talks about the moon, not moonlight.In my mind the problems with the existing translations go far beyond nit-picking and personal preference. They are actually *wrong* in far too many places. And to the extent we look to Dogen in translation to give us real insights and guideposts on our way, they will fail.

  2. jundo cohen Says:

    Hi Bob,It is interesting …人のさとりをうる、水に月のやどるがごとし。月ぬれず、水やぶれず。ひろくおほきなるひかりにてあれど、尺寸の水にやどり、全月も彌天も、くさの露にもやどり、一滴の水にもやどる。さとりの人をやぶらざる事、月の水をうがたざるがごとし。人のさとりを礙せざること、滴露の天月を礙せざるがごとし。ふかきことはたかき分量なるべし。時節の長短は、大水小水を點し、天月の廣狹を辨取すべし。I like what you did with the phrases you mention:One of your changes is use of the verb “to nestle” for “yadoru” … That’s very nice. The meaning of “yadoru” in classical Japanese is rather “to visit” or “to dwell temporarily” as at an inn (or, a bit more expressively, as you render it “resting” or “being harbored”). Here is a poem nice translation with a pleasant twist on “yadoru”:ai ni aitemono omou koro nowa ga sode niyadoru tsuki saenururu kao naruHow fitting it seemsthat tears should dampen the faceeven of the moon,whose image visits my sleeveas I sit lost in sad thought.http://www.poetrylives.com/SimplyHaiku/SHv4n3/features/Hulvey.htmlI think “nestling” captures that very well. But I would not call the other translations wrong, and any word choice in English will have its own imperfections.I have access to 9 translation of the Genjo (besides yours), 8 of which use a variation on “reflecting” (http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/Dogen_Teachings/GenjoKoan8.htm#mas7) and one (the new Shasta Abbey Genjo) uses “residing”. One reason I am not so concerned in this case is that “reflecting” may be closer to the sensibilities of the modern reader than more literal (to the original) or poetic phrasing such as “nestled” or “visits”. In any case, I do not see that the meaning is significantly altered. I also do not see that the emphasis of the paragraph is particularly just on the “moon’s nestling”, as you seem to say, but is more on the harmonious relationship of moon and water without disturbance.I like too what you have done with ふかきことはたかき分量なるべし.But I think you impose your own interpretation in other sections of the Genjo, for example in the first paragraph where you have “法の佛法なる時節” as “When various things are Buddhist things” (versus, for example, “as all things are buddha-dharma” in the Tanahashi). Yours seems perhaps a rather limiting way to render “Buddha-dharma”. Or, in the same paragraph, where you render “しかもかくのごとくなりといへども、花は愛惜にちり、草は棄嫌におふるのみなり” as “It is falling blossoms uniting love and sorrow, spreading weeds uniting indifference and dislike” (Nishijima has “Though all this may be true, flowers fall even if we love them, and weeds grow even if we hate them”). I just don’t see your interpretation there so clearly, and you also seem to be reading a great lot of your own feeling into Dogen.Also, if I read your comment correctly, you seem to be saying that Dogen’s meaning in today’s passage is that “the length of realization” is based upon the “length of Practice”. I do not see that either, nor can I think that Dogen would ever mean that.All translations have like problems. Even if they get one passage a bit nicer, they tend to have weaknesses elsewhere. This is especially true with Shobogenzo given the many layers of meaning and ambiguities it contains.Perhaps Jordan, and that Irish fellow, and any other hard-core Shobo-buffs might have some input on this??Gassho, Jundo

  3. Bob Says:

    Thanks Jundo. Some quick follow-up notes to close the loop:First, I was not trying to say that “reflect” to render “yadoru” is a bad choice. It’s perfectly reasonable. I will take some other opportunity to talk about the reasons why “it is falling blossoms uniting love and sorrow, spreading weeds uniting indifference and dislike” is the only translation of this early sentence in GK that actually makes sense in the overall context, at levels from the lexographic to the conceptual.Concerning this: 時節の長短は、大水小水を點し、天月の廣狹を辨取すべしNo, I did not say that Dogen’s meaning here is that “the length of realization” is based upon the “length of practice”. I am saying that it “means”, within the bounds of possibilities of conveying meaning across languages, cultures, and centureis, exactly what my translation says: “The longer you probe the shallows and depths, the broader the moon you should discern in the heavens.” This is actually an extremely conservative translation, matching the original lexically item by item. Just as it was for the 16th century Japanese reader of/listener to the original, it is up to the reader to assign any additional “meanings” s/he may wish to, such as that the “probing” corresponds to practice, Anyway, thanks for your attention to this thread. Some may find this discussion overly pedantic and academic, and wonder why these folks don’t just shut up and sit instead of quibbling over such arcanities. That’s fine, they can just ignore it. It’s also fine to treat Dogen translations as a sort of soothing background of sequenes of congenial Zen imagery. But if we want Dogen’s words to actually provide guidance, we need to pay attention to what they say.

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