Before I get started, tonight, Wednesday January 23, 2013, at 7:15 pm I will host zazen at Yogavidala 4640 Franklin Ave  Los Angeles, CA 90027, on the corner of Franklin and Vermont behind the 7-11 in Los Feliz. We’ve been doing this for about four months now every Wednesday night. We’re getting about 2-5 people each time, which is barely enough to pay the rent on the space. As of February we’re moving the sittings to Thursdays at 8:30pm to see if that does any better. If it doesn’t we’ll probably just drop the weeknight zen things.


On Monday my friend Nina and I went up to Mount Baldy Zen Center to talk to them about holding a Zen retreat there. The terms and prices they quoted us sound very reasonable. We have not finalized anything yet. But the most likely dates for the retreat would be April 11-14 (or possibly April 25-28). Once we have worked out the details I’ll post them here. I’m deliberately posting this a bit prematurely to try and gauge what sort of interest is out there for this. We need at least 20 people in the retreat (that’s part of the policy at Mt. Baldy) and the cost would be somewhere around $325 per person (possibly more, possibly less). This will cover all meals and accommodations.

This will be a full-on Zen retreat. Participants will be required to maintain silence for most of the three days. There will be no cell phones or computer use allowed. The main activity will be zazen. There won’t be any workshops or games or weenie and marshmallow roasts. Drug and alcohol use will not be tolerated. But there will be a period of yoga each day, a chanting service each morning, a few talks by me followed by Q&A sessions, a work period each day and opportunities for dokusan (personal meetings with me) for all participants. There will be free time for hiking and exercise too.

After Nina and I returned from Mt. Baldy on Monday, my roommate started talking to me about ways he thought we could get more participants at our retreats and thereby make more money. He was saying we could add fun activities, more talks, less zazen, etc. And, of course, all of this would bring in more people. But then it wouldn’t be a zen retreat. It would be something else. At best it would be a weekend in the mountains with a bit of zazen thrown in. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing people could do. And I’m not completely opposed to that kind of a retreat. I may start doing those some day.

I used to live down the street from this one.

But here’s the thing. People are always complaining that their minds are too busy to do meditation. Your mind is not too busy to do meditation. I don’t care who you are or how busy your mind is. Your mind is just as busy as everybody else’s. Your mind and Buddha’s mind are equally as busy. Meditation is hard for everyone who does it. Everyone. If it wasn’t difficult to sit still and be quiet they wouldn’t build giant statues commemorating people whose main claim to fame is that they could sit still and be quiet. It’s hard work. But you can do it.

One of the things that makes a person’s mind seem “too busy for meditation” is the way we are constantly agitating our brains with unnecessary information and stimulation. It’s like sitting there poking your eye with your finger over and over and then complaining that you can’t see clearly.

Retreats in which participants get to chat or play with their computers or go for trips to local sightseeing spots etc. rob those participants of the opportunity to go deeply into silence. Which doesn’t mean those retreats are evil or anything like that. They may offer people who are super busy and super stimulated a chance to be a little less busy and a little less stimulated. And that’s nice. But that’s not what a zen retreat is about. A zen retreat is about going deeply into silence for several days. And you can only go deeply into silence for several days by going deeply into silence for several days . So while I may one day offer a few more “lite zen” retreats like the one I did in the Lakes District U.K. last year, this won’t be one of those.

As some of you have surely noticed, Mount Baldy Zen Center is the home temple of the recently vilified Joshu Sasaki Roshi. I have to admit, after all the shit that’s been flung at me recently I take a kind of perverse delight in the idea of holding a retreat at Mount Baldy. Take that, self righteous upholders of morality! Ha!*

But the less sexy truth of the matter is that we’ve been looking into holding a retreat at Mount Baldy for a number of years now. It is the perfect place for a Los Angeles based zen group to run a retreat. It’s close to LA and yet remote enough to have the proper atmosphere. It’s a zen center so it has all the stuff one needs to run a proper zen retreat (a zendo, a Buddha hall, bells, a big mokugyo, monks to run the kitchen and make three-bowl meals, etc.). It’s not a place built for yoga or camping or whatever that we’d have to adapt to our purposes. It is as beautiful a spot as anyone could possibly hope for. All the recent controversy about Sasaki offers no reason at all for us to change our minds about holding our retreat at Mount Baldy. So there!*


* These are jokes. Sometimes I tell jokes on this blog.



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91 Responses

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  1. chasrmartin
    chasrmartin January 23, 2013 at 11:36 am |

    I’ll look forward to hearing about it; I might be able to make it.

  2. Fred
    Fred January 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm |

    Sasaki who?

  3. Alizrin
    Alizrin January 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm |

    I wish I could make it. I recently did a week long retreat (of the Shmabhala style) and it was great. What made it great? It was totally banal. It was done right here where I live, it was done in the meditation center I go to all the time, it was done with the same schmucks that I always sit with. In other words, no entertaining novelty, no need to sit around imagining who all these new people are and go over the detail of the new place. On top of that, it was really cheap since I did not have to travel anywhere and people donated food. There was a short daily yoga routine and during the week there were a few talks, only about meditation, and a wrap up on the last day. In other words, just something ordinary, no vacation, I came home every night to the same dirty dishes I left in the sink when I left in the morning. And what I loved about it was that it was only about meditation, no pomp and circumstance (as shambhala has too much of) no talk about how the world can be changed or improved upon (one of shambhala’s obsessions of the moment) and no need to sort through a whole lot of complicated dharma gobbelty-gook, just meditation, plain and simple. And all that “just sitting” completely allowed me to see that all that stuff I just complained about is just smoke an mirrors that keeps me from what is important — meditation.

    I agree with Brad (as I often do), a retreat that is about meditation and not entertainment is the thing that is really powerful (and I have been on both kinds). I admit, the entertaining nature of many retreats is what makes the whole thing less threatening to people and so they would be more willing to come along, but in the end, the entertaining stuff is just that, entertainment.

    As I said, I wish I could make it to LA!

  4. UngKwan
    UngKwan January 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm |

    I’m in NYC and wouldn’t be able to make this, but I am curious: if I were to attend, would the expectation be that we would be practicing shikantaza? I ask because I practice in the Kwan Um School of Zen and my zazen practice has been hwadu (Ch. huatou, Jp. watu).

  5. Mumon
    Mumon January 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm |

    Silent Bob should have to speak.

  6. Mumon
    Mumon January 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm |

    UngKwan –

    Presumably you’d have a teacher in Kwan Um that would give you the appropriate interview/advice.

    I’m sure Brad would speak for himself, but I, personally, wouldn’t see him in dokusan for advice on a koan practice. (BTW, it’s “watoh” in Japanese.)

    1. sri_barence
      sri_barence January 25, 2013 at 10:10 am |

      The teachers in KwanUm are a bunch of bandits. I wouldn’t ask them how to tie my shoes.

  7. UngKwan
    UngKwan January 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm |


    You can attend a retreat and not go to dokusan. Also, you could simply not ask a question related to this practice in dokusan. However, some teachers are specific about “this is a shikantaza retreat” which is why I asked.

    Wikipedia uses “wato” for the Japanese:

    I’ve also seen it as “watou:”

    Wato, watou, and watoh: are they the same or different? =)

  8. charst46
    charst46 January 23, 2013 at 2:10 pm |

    Brad, from the for what it’s worth category as long as balance is maintained altering to draw in more participants maybe ok; I am thinking that there must be activities that are done in traditional Zendo’s that might break the external but maintain the awareness. The mythical shaolin temple as ‘model’?

    Otherwise I would say the participants came to do Zen, not Disneyland.

    Do you ever come out to Colorado and the Denver area?

  9. HarryB
    HarryB January 23, 2013 at 2:45 pm |

    The Soto Funerals inc. position on koan zazen is actually very clear: Don’t do it, fiddling with your mu makes you go blind!



  10. HarryB
    HarryB January 23, 2013 at 2:48 pm |

    P.s. Stop wasting donations on Brad’s caviar and Fabergé egg addictions… send the cash to me so I can go to Mount Baldy (the place, that is, no trace of verb in that)!

    Sounds /looks like a great retreat venue.

    Good luck,


  11. boubi
    boubi January 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm |

    I’ve been struck by Brad’s candor and honesty about his being a human being, with every human possible predicament.

    I propose that anybody who is in touch with any kind of juvenile organization, being school or other, to suggest them a lecture by Brad.

    I think he could relate very well with teens and his simplicity will be accepted by the youngsters.

  12. boubi
    boubi January 23, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

    … as in a wheel whose motion nothing jars –
    by the Love that moves the sun and other stars.

    The Divine Comedy

  13. Fred
    Fred January 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm |

    ” all sentient beings intrinsically abide in eternity and are entered into nirvana. The state of enlightenment is not something that is to be acquired by practice or to be created. In the end, it is unobtainable [for it is given from the beginning]”

    Since there is no one to become anything, whether it is entertainment or serious
    serious silence is mute.

  14. Fred
    Fred January 23, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

    I suppose that you could say that Emptiness is shedding the layers of self.

  15. HarryB
    HarryB January 23, 2013 at 6:28 pm |

    The self doesn’t have layers, never did/does. That’s why very sincere people don’t need to pretend to be enlightened.

    Time doesn’t have eras either; and there’s no near and far… doesn’t make my ticket to Mount Baldy any cheaper tho. Please donate so that I can stop pretending to be enlightened. It’s exhausting!



  16. A-Bob
    A-Bob January 23, 2013 at 6:41 pm |

    Hmm.. I don’t know about a caviar and Fabergé egg addiction.. but Brad might need the cash himself to go to mount Nina..

  17. Fred
    Fred January 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm |

    That’s not what was said Harry, now was it? You have twisted the words to fit
    your point of view.

  18. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer January 23, 2013 at 7:31 pm |

    I would strongly commit to attend.

    I may be wrong, but I am pretty certain that at least a few people from Kevin’s sanga would be willing and able.


  19. Augi
    Augi January 23, 2013 at 7:50 pm |

    I am interested in attending, but cannot firmly commit until the dates are finalized and I have looked a little closer at my budget.

  20. HarryB
    HarryB January 24, 2013 at 3:14 am |

    Well, It’s true that words are wonderfully twisty, something that A?vagho?a would have understood well as a poet, as Master Dogen did (also as a poet).

    We take it for granted a lot, but it’s interesting to compare how a doctrinaire religious thinker uses language compared to, say, a politician who has to avoid making direct, unambiguous statements if he/she wants to prolong a career.

    How much more is this true of poets who revel in the potentiality of language for non literal, or at least, non-specific meaning (although, they do rely on established/agreed meaning too of course)?

    It may be that language, like the Dharma, is an open field that makes (or doesn’t make!) its own meaning instantaneously. Imagine the meaning that would be instilled in the word ‘What’ if it was the only word we could say… but there I go again, twisting things when I should be deferring to some imaginary ‘untwisted’ authority.



  21. HarryB
    HarryB January 24, 2013 at 3:46 am |

    …We’re provisionally wired to accept simple statements as either ‘true’ or ‘untrue’ based on a particular human need (sometimes quite pronounced). So when we meet something like this (below) it may appear to be gibberish, and maybe it is until we make something of it:

    “When all things and phenomena exist as Buddhist teachings, then there are delusion and realization, practice and experience, life and death, buddhas and ordinary people. When millions of things and phenomena are all separate from ourselves, there are no delusion and no enlightenment, no buddhas and no ordinary people, no life and no death. Buddhism is originally transcendent over abundance and scarcity, and so [in reality] there is life and death, there is delusion and realization, there are people and buddhas.
    Though all this may be true, flowers fall even if we love them, and weeds grow even if we hate them, and that is all.”

    Is there or isn’t there “delusion and realization, practice and experience, life and death, buddhas and ordinary people”, and why has Dogen arrived at the point of saying there is via seemingly negating them? When we take the very important element of his intention into account it is very likely that he was never trying to confuse us, nor was he of the opinion that language was inherently ‘unreal’ or inferior (as was/is an established norm in Zen Buddhism… but even that has its useful place it seems). I’m afraid the tyranny of simple ‘truths’ will likely always be easier to swallow given our condition.

    The contribution of Nishijima Sensei is that Doegn is indicating Buddhism as a phase of action, that Buddhism is essentially a matter of how we act, which is certainly valid, but is taken as in some way to negate the previous statements. While Dogen is certainly using language to contextualise something and indicate something, I don’t think that was his intention, and it may smack of our human need to make things simple and graspable, and to glean ‘truths’ from the comparative ‘untruth’ of other statements in discriminating comparison.

    Emily Dickson understood it to an extent when she said ‘Tell the truth but tell it slant’ neglecting possibly that the slantiness itself is the truth when the truth is happening slant, if indeed it’s not always slant.



  22. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon January 24, 2013 at 5:12 am |


    Are you the same Harry (from Ireland?) who used to have Mr. Potato Head for an avatar? I think I recognize your wisdom, sense of humor and writing style from comments long ago. If you are that Harry, welcome back, I’ve missed your comments. If you’re not that Harry, never mind. If you’re both the same Harry and not the same Harry, that would seem about right.

    Uncle Willie

  23. HarryB
    HarryB January 24, 2013 at 5:30 am |

    Dear Uncle Willie,

    My head has now evolved into a bruised turnip, but it’s still me, Mr. Tuber Head.

    Nice to see a welcoming word, thank-you very much.



  24. Fred
    Fred January 24, 2013 at 5:45 am |

    Yes Harry, Mr. Dogen also said that the more enlightened he became , the more
    he realized how deluded he was.

    So what is crafting the words?

    Is it that which cannot be comprehended that is realizing itself through the
    flesh and neuro-circuits, or the culturally conditioned entity that yaps on and on

  25. HarryB
    HarryB January 24, 2013 at 6:02 am |

    Although it has a *cultural* aspect of urgently pointing out our distinct human foibles, I don’t think that Buddhism is about self loathing, or of loathing the human condition, or all human culture, or the human voice.

    Rather it seems that Buddhism is a triumph of the human voice (at its best… which is a small percentage overall), which is just a little aspect (a human aspect) of the great diversity that’s here. It’s a strange thing that substantial trust is gained in embracing uncertainty, even existential doubt (as any writer/other artist will know).

    When we’ve fully comprehended our non-comprehension we may be in a better place to answer your second question… statement?



  26. Andy
    Andy January 24, 2013 at 6:28 am |

    I think T.S Eliot had his finger somewhat on the pivot with his,

    “The bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious.”

    Although this is a point Eliot is ostensibly making about the act of writing, it also implies something about reading. After all, how is it Eliot can feel confident in generalising about other writers’ states of mind when writing, by means of the poems they have written? Moreover (and perhaps more to the point) while reading Eliot’s critical essay, this really resonated with my younger self, while attempting to grasp what all this alluring, mystifying, and often frustrating poetry writing/reading stuff was all about.

    It still strikes me as amazing that, by my second year as an English undergraduate, I had gone through the education system without any one of my teachers/lecturers ever finding it worthwhile to address this most practical and life affirming aspect of the whole shebang: the nuts and bolts (or the body-and-mind perhaps) of how accomplished (or otherwise) writers write and how affective (or otherwise) readers read.

    Granted that I was for sure a little mesmerized by Eliot’s authorial clarity of prose and confidence of tone (especially as my first introduction to the guy was his swinge-ing whinge of a Wasteland) I also had enough genuine curiosity and openness to tune in to what Eliot was essentially attempting to draw my attention to: that there was an intellectual and intuitive dynamic in both reading and writing to tune in to and embrace; a discerning focus and an focussed open-ness.

    Furthermore, this lead to a realisation that this intellectual and intuitive dynamic wasn’t divorced from my body. (I think Ted Hughes had touched me up on that one previously, but I’d not been feeling it at the time of such foxy thoughts – ‘Cold, delicately as the dark snow’).

    Whereas I’d once felt a bit stupid needing to read such things as Paradise Lost or Hamlet out aloud while standing up in my bedroom at seventeen, to get some handle on the verse (without drifting over the words towards the dangerous precipice of those Cliff notes telling me what for), I started to realise that such ‘extra-curricular’ incursions were indeed the very life-blood of what I’d been studying all along (and was why I’d kept on doing it with the same kind of secrecy and frequency at times puberty got up me to something else!). Indeed, all that physically active reading helped to embed a livelier habit of reading such things silently (like the cleverer kids did at primary school – a sign for sure of proficiency in the abstract arts of reading – while I was yearning for football practice).

    One can twist oneself and others in knots bearing down upon the written – whether it be the practice of words as words-about-the-‘practice’ or words-as-the-‘practice’ with our critical faculties alone in order to parse for ourselves, or to come to some consensus about, what it or he or she does or doesn’t mean or intend to mean at certain levels of understanding, critique and dialogue. And I think this is often a necessary thing to engage in.

    So long or short as, I think, we know and don’t know what we are doing, or playing at.

  27. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel January 24, 2013 at 6:37 am |

    That reminds me of the aulde saying: “Better a good retreat than a bad stand!”

  28. Johnny Tet
    Johnny Tet January 24, 2013 at 6:44 am |

    RETROGRADE!!! (from Long Island)

    I am interested in this type of retreat, but need more lead time to request time off of work and coordinate funding with my spouse. April is too early.

    4-6 months in advance would be perfect. Also, Texas is good for me. Coordinating one in Texas, next time you visit relatives here would be ideal

  29. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel January 24, 2013 at 6:46 am |

    Andy writes:

    “Whereas I’d once felt a bit stupid needing to read such things as Paradise Lost or Hamlet out aloud while standing up in my bedroom at seventeen, to get some handle on the verse”

    But I do think that reading some things silently deprives us of the sheer music of some verses. Sometimes, poetry read aloud has a rhythm and a music intrinsical that makes for a lot of the pleasure in it.

  30. Andy
    Andy January 24, 2013 at 6:47 am |

    While for me it was more a case of ‘better standing badly than retreating into the good.’

  31. Andy
    Andy January 24, 2013 at 7:16 am |

    To Proulx Michel,

    Yes, that was very much what I was on about in my meanderings. As an undergraduate I realised I’d been reading poetry more fruitfully as an A level student at 17, by reading out loud and standing up. No one told me to do it. At the time I felt that I had to do it because I wasn’t such a great reader. It was a habit I kept up because it worked for me; it helped me to throw myself into it more fully and really get a good feel for the textures and pulse of language. I still read poems that way. In fact I don’t think it’s hard to silently read poetry and get the most out of it without having internalised and made oneself sensitive to the dimensions reading out aloud can give you.

    Of course many poems and poetics are designed to be read cerebrally and play different kinds of textual strategies that aren’t about the sound or physicality of the text. Sometimes these poems are about the rhythms of thought and awareness, the junctures and disjunctures of textually thinking mind, as it were. But even then, I personally like to read those kinds of poems aloud as well as silently as a way to approach them from a different angle. Reading both ways accesses different parts of the brain, I think, and can open up slightly different intellectual or emotional responses. I’ve done this when reading dry academic tomes too, and it’s an interesting thing to attempt to find the voices in prose like that, even if some of them come out all C-3PO. Cyborgs have souls too.

  32. Andy
    Andy January 24, 2013 at 7:18 am |

    “In fact I don’t think it’s hard to silently read poetry and get the most out of it without having internalised and made oneself sensitive to the dimensions reading out aloud can give you. ”

    typo – “I do think it’s hard to…”

  33. A-Bob
    A-Bob January 24, 2013 at 7:45 am |

    There is delusion and realization, practice and experience, life and death, buddhas and ordinary people.. the key word being And..

    Maybe Dogen meant that there is always this and that in truth. Only when things are seen as separate from ourselves do we fail to include this or that in ourselves. Even if you prefer this to that or stress the thatness of something over the thisness, you can’t remove it, you can’t change the fact that both are part of you and not separate from you. Even if it embarrasses or is dreadful to you, it is still part of you, maybe then maybe even more so..

  34. A-Bob
    A-Bob January 24, 2013 at 7:51 am |

    er.. remove one maybe from the last sentence.. your choice.

  35. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 24, 2013 at 8:36 am |

    Innumerable tongues that are broken brought us this silence; we should know it’s a hard rain’s a’gonna fall.

    “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear.

    We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to — some sort of sexual touching problem.”

  36. AnneMH
    AnneMH January 24, 2013 at 8:48 am |

    It sounds like just the kind of retreat I am looking for. I have only done a couple 1-3 day retreats with a nice teacher from the Insight school. I am actively looking for more retreat times however I need to match up with places in Colorado and on school breaks. I am asking around for retreats that work for me and hey! I saw another Colorado person! If there are more in Colorado maybe we could work on supporting Brad to come here for a retreat.

    I would love to hear more about retreats Brad. I have seen different ones and I am not so concerned that they be in a specific tradition as weeding out the ones that are more touristy. Also there are 2 Zen centers several hours from Denver. Due to my schedule I have thought about having a more ‘do it yourself’ type retreat there to match the dates I can actually get there. There are times they said you can do that and basically join the monk life for 10 days.

    So my question is what are the elements you would look for that you consider valuable on retreat? I think you answered some of this already, an environment that really allows for quieting of the mind, but anything else for those of us far away evaluating our options.

  37. SoF
    SoF January 24, 2013 at 11:43 am |

    Takaoka Daibutsu, Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture
    Abridged translation of Yomiuri Shimbun Story, Sept. 23, 2004
    This sitting image of the Buddha is 7.4 meters high. If the pedestal is included, the statue is 15.9 meters in height. The original burnt to the ground numerous times during its history. Construction on this particular reproduction began in 1907, and was completed in 1933. The ground beneath the statue gave way in 1980, sinking about 11 meters, so the statue was moved to its current location and repairs yet again undertaken. According to records, the first Big Buddha in Takaoka was built of wood in the Kamakura era, but was lost to fire. The current metal statue was built thanks to the ceaseless efforts of Matsukis?zaemon. The Big Buddha of Nara and Kamakura, plus the Takaoka Daibutsu, are sometimes referred to as Japan’s Three Great Buddha.

  38. Fred
    Fred January 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm |

    I see the boys of summer in their ruin
    Lay the gold tithings barren,
    Setting no store by harvest, freeze the soils;
    There in their heat the winter floods
    Of frozen loves they fetch their girls,
    And drown the cargoed apples in their tides.

    These boys of light are curdlers in their folly,
    Sour the boiling honey;
    The jacks of frost they finger in the hives;
    There in the sun the frigid threads
    Of doubt and dark they feed their nerves;
    The signal moon is zero in their voids.


    I see you boys of summer in your ruin.
    Man in his maggot’s barren.
    And boys are full and foreign to the pouch.
    I am the man your father was.
    We are the sons of flint and pitch.
    O see the poles are kissing as they cross.

  39. sri_barence
    sri_barence January 24, 2013 at 1:32 pm |

    I’m gonna try to make it to your retreat. I’ll send you an email later when I am able to confirm.

    Would we be expected to wear robes, and if so, should I bring my own?

  40. Khru
    Khru January 24, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

    Well I might consider attending if an3drew did a dharma talk!

  41. Phumbling
    Phumbling January 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm |

    Hello, Brad. What level of experience should I have if I were interested in attending the retreat? I’ve got near none. Nothing formal. Let me know. Please. 🙂

    1. sri_barence
      sri_barence January 25, 2013 at 10:28 am |

      I suspect that “near nothing” is the best level of experience. In other words, I think you will get more out of a retreat if you don’t have any expectations. Those of us who have done retreats before “know what it is like,” so we may miss out on some of the good stuff.

  42. anon 108
    anon 108 January 25, 2013 at 3:21 am |

    Re “twisty words,” the word “and” (vide ABob), and the first paragraph of Dogen’s Genjo-Koan, quoted by HarryB – here’s an alternative translation of the same paragraph by Bob Myers, from his “First Dogen Book”.*

    ‘Viewing various things as Buddhistic things, then we have wisdom and we have practice, we have life and we have death, we have buddhas and we have sentient beings. Stripping all things of their essence, we have no delusion and no satori, we have no buddhas and no sentient beings, we have no beginnings and no endings. The way of the buddha inherently soars above such extravagance and austerity, uniting beginning and ending, uniting delusion and satori, uniting sentient being and buddha. It is falling blossoms uniting love and sorrow, spreading weeds uniting indifference and dislike, nothing more.’

    And here’s part of BM’s explanatory essay – the part dealing with the third sentence (“The way of the Buddha inherently soars above…”). Note what he says about Dogen’s use of compounds in that sentence:

    ‘Dogen now describes the true way—butsudo, the “path of the buddha.” It “soars beyond” the “extravagance” of Buddhist doctrine and the “austerity” of nihilism. It is a synthesis of the two prevailing, yet flawed, worldviews. What the synthesis yields is presented as yet another triplet of pairs, but with a key difference: each is a single, two-character Chinese compound. For example, in contrast to the first sentence where we had “life and death,” or the second where we found “beginnings and endings,” in this sentence we encounter a compound which might best be rendered in English with a slash as “beginning/ending.” Dogen’s intent is to show that these are an indivisible, united pair. In the absence of a comparable lexical device in English, the translation conveys this explicitly by introducing the word “uniting.”’

    I know nothing about medieval Japanese so I can’t support nor attack BM’s argument. But assuming he’s not mistaken about the presence of compounds in the third sentence which are absent from the first, and assuming Dogen wasn’t sloppy about the orthographic forms he used, this much should be clear: We should be very cautious not to read too much into the fine detail of modern translations of ancient texts – particularly those recorded in picto/ideographic writing systems. A good translation might give us enough to get close to the gist of what’s being said, but pondering the significance of ‘ands’ and ‘buts’ in translations of Dogen is unlikely to reveal anything reliable…concerning ‘what Dogen really meant’.

    *Bob Myers’ smashing “First Dogen Book” can be found entire here:

  43. blake
    blake January 25, 2013 at 7:17 am |

    Seriously contemplating doing this.

  44. blake
    blake January 25, 2013 at 7:23 am |

    Hehehe “mount baldy.” My wife does that…

  45. boubi
    boubi January 25, 2013 at 7:58 am |

    Hi anon108

    the song was “new value” from Iggy Pop

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 January 25, 2013 at 8:16 am |

      The backwards one? With the Fs and Gs in it? Thanks. I’ll check it out.

  46. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 25, 2013 at 8:21 am |

    anon108, thanks much for the alternative version of Dogen’s text. I find that to be much more readable, and more immediately verifiable, if I may say so.

    I do feel that Dogen doesn’t add much to the dialogue. What he says may be entirely accurate, but even in fukanzazengi, he is lifting material from other sources and riffing on other people’s melodies. I like jazz, he’s fine, and as Scoop Nisker says “if you don’t like the news go out and make some of your own.” I’m ok with that.

    Some of what I’m writing can be found here, if anyone is interested- it’s my instruction for myself about the seated practice or the standing practice.

  47. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 25, 2013 at 8:25 am |

    whoops, better link.

  48. anon 108
    anon 108 January 25, 2013 at 9:12 am |

    I’d not heard of Mr Nisker before, Mark, nor his nice catch-phrase book title – which I’m ok with too.

    I decided to learn to read Sanskrit to give myself a better chance of understanding, and hopefully verifying, Nagarjuna, whose work my teacher has studied and translated. I enjoy studying Sanskrit. It’s a satisfying hobby, and has enabled me to come to a few small conclusions for myself about what Nagarjuna, and some other Indian philosophers, were saying. But Sanskrit and English aren’t radically different languages. There’s not much written in Sanskrit – even by Nagarjuna – that can’t be closely approximated by an informed translation or three in English. Even while any translation still leaves plenty to the imagination.

    As for the medieval Buddhist word-smith Dogen – who my teacher also introduced me to – (even) in translation his writing inspires me to practice. So, for me, reading him has a value above and beyond that of any occasional insights that might be had. But it’s become clear to me that if I really want to get at the skin, flesh, bones and marrow of Dogen’s writing it’s even more important to read him in his original language – which, unlike Sanskrit, is a very different form of expression to English. Not that there isn’t much to be gained from the translations. Perhaps I’ll make a start one day.

    But yeah, Dogen isn’t compulsory.

  49. MBZC Shika
    MBZC Shika January 25, 2013 at 9:21 am |

    Hello Brad, Nina, and friends!

    We’re really looking forward to hosting your retreat this spring. I hope it works out! Brad, we all enjoyed drinking licorice tea with you and Nina last week, and getting to know you both. I look forward to meeting all your co-bloggers on this retreat. Best wishes, Gento Steve

    1. sri_barence
      sri_barence January 25, 2013 at 10:30 am |

      What?? Licorice tea?? I’m not gonna hang out with the kind of weirdos who drink that stuff…

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