Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Mirror Principle (4): Question to Gudo

Dear Being who is Before,

Last night a contributor to my blog compared his lazy original self with a dusty mirror. So this morning I would like to clarify the meaning of the 6th Patriarch's poem, as follows:

Bodhi, at root, is being without -- a tree.
The bright mirror, similarly, is being not -- a base.
From the beginning, being without -- a solitary thing, a unitary thing.
Where is there dust?

I had the idea to put at the end "translated by Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross," but if I follow your instruction I am not permitted to use your name. In that case, I wonder: the translator is who?

With best wishes,

Mike Cross
A non-Buddhist non-monk

Dear Mr Mike Cross,

Please don't put my name on such a kind of unreliable translation. My
Buddhist attitude is much more sincere.

Don't slander Gautama Buddha!

With best wishes

Gudo Wafu Nishijima


Blogger Mike Cross said...

The 6th Patriarch’s poem has four lines of 5 characters each:

Line One:
BODAI (two characters) -- Bodhi; Awakening; what Gautama Buddha practiced and experienced under the Bodhi tree
HON -- originally, at root
MU -- to be without, not to have, non-existence
JU -- tree

Line Two:
MEI -- clear, bright
KYO -- mirror
MATA -- again, also, similarly
HI -- be not, be different from, be beyond, transcend
DAI -- stand, base

Line Three:
HONRAI (two characters) -- orginally, from the beginning
MU -- to be without, not to have, non-existence
ICHI -- one, single, solitary, unitary
MOTSU -- thing

Line Four:
NAN - what
SHO - place
U -- exist, to be there
JIN-AI (two characters)-- dust and dirt, dust

In Japanese the poem is pronounced:

The key to understanding the poem is the meaning of MU. According to Gudo Nishijima, MU in Buddhist philosophy is never a denial of reality. It expresses a real state of being, a state of being without anything lacking or anything superfluous -- a state which Gudo has identified, to his own professed satisfaction, with balance of the autonomic nervous system.

Except that I don’t believe that Gudo is truly satisfied with his own reductionist explanation. Hence, following the mirror principle of disliking in others what one fears is wrong within oneself, Gudo wrote the following in an email to me on December 7th last year:

“Dear Mr Mike Cross, Thank you very much for your email, but I think that you are teaching some idea, which is never Buddhism, but you teach it as if it were Buddhism.”

I think it possible that Gudo wrote those words just looking into a bright mirror.

I think it possible that, in his heart, Gudo knows that a reductionist explanation of Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment is a kind of slandering Gautama Buddha.

The poem of the 6th patriarch, Master Daikan Eno, is very profound and yet is written using very ordinary words, very everyday words. Anybody should be able to make their own translation of the poem just relying on the vocabulary provided above.

Except that I think that if John Smith translates the poem relying on the above, he shouldn’t say “translated by John Smith.” Because it was Gudo Nishijima who cracked open the meaning of the poem with his exact understanding of MU-BUSSHO, being without = the Buddha-nature.

Sunday, January 28, 2007  

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