Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Zen Buddhism El Paso / Juarez--Sitting in the New Year!

This Saturday, January 9, we'll be back in the zaddle, 330pm, 711 Robinson. Hope you can be there. Below is a bit of a commentary by monk Philippe Coupey in his book ZEN: SIMPLY SITTING. The book is a gathering of dharma talks about Dogen's Fukanzazengi, which is translated as "The Universal Guide on the Correct Practice of Zazen." Coupey discusses Dogen's little essay line by line. A good book. By the way, he quotes a poem by Cold Mountain, or Hanshan, a famous Chinese poet who lived in the caves of the mountain where he took his name. I love his poems, and I first ran into them in poet Gary Snyder's freer translations. Thus, I've typed the Snyder translation of the same Hanshan poem below the other. Enjoy.

And Happy New Year!

Dogen tells us that zazen is the manifestation of ultimate reality. Reality can’t be anywhere but here, right where you are. Reality isn’t yesterday or tomorrow. That’s illusion. Reality is a succession of heres and nows. Reality is what is. It is original nature.

Hanshan was a Chinese poet who practiced zazen in the 7th century. As is often the case in Buddhist history, he took his name from the mountain where he lived. Here is a poem by him about reality in which he talks about the mountain, the valley, himself, and, finally, the present moment:

Strange is the way that leads to Hanshan.
No ruts or hoof prints can be seen.
Valley winds into valley, peak rises above peak.
The grass sparkles with dew, and the pines whisper in the wind.
Don’t you understand?
Reality asks the shadows for directions.

--p55, Zen: Simply Sitting

And now the Snyder translation of the same poem. Except for the last two lines, the Snyder poem is clearly the better. The last two lines, however, makes me wonder if Snyder lost the point of the poem. It makes me want to look at other translations. I always wonder about translations, how simply a misplaced word can lead a person off in the other direction, huh?

The path to Han-shan's place is laughable,
A path, but no sign of cart or horse.
Converging gorges - hard to trace their twists
Jumbled cliffs - unbelievably rugged.
A thousand grasses bend with dew,
A hill of pines hums in the wind.
And now I've lost the shortcut home,
Body asking shadow, how do you keep up?

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