bound to be awful

[click image]


Or darn misleading, but Dōgen is the only Japanese master I really like. That would be, no doubt, because he went to China for his Zen and managed to get there what was not yet completely defaced from the era of the great masters... already on the wane by a couple two or three centuries before Dōgen showed up... well... and because Dōgen was a stone cold genius.

The difficulty is great. I'm not current on it, but at last count there was one reliable source for English translation of his work. The difficulty of a good translation from any Asian language to a Western one is already enormous, but one has to understand Zen deeply enough before anything lucid will come of translating Dōgen. If you just google "Thomas Cleary Dōgen", I'm sure you will get to the good stuff. Rational Zen: The Mind of Dōgen Zenji is a masterpiece, and is one of the works that has done the most for my understanding.

I would warn you that if you are a beginner, you will almost certainly remain mystified no matter how hard you try, but if you already have the basics pretty well in mind, gotten used to Zen master speak, you stand a chance, and particularly because Cleary has bothered to help clarify. With some intense concentration, suddenly the completely disorienting arrangement of words on the page snaps into pure lucidity.

Anyway, I think I'm going to have to break my eyeballs on the subtitles here, just to get an idea of how utterly they've trashed his biography... but maybe they have at least gotten the broad strokes down... while taking too much credit for him or taking too many liberties with him. Great as he was, he didn't manage to turn out any really good successors, and Japan in general went on to turn it into pretty much Eastern Catholicism... heavy sigh... but most American seekers have no idea about this when they start, and flock to cuddly or crusty charlatans and Zen "teaching" centers like designer clothing boutiques on Rodeo Drive.

The ancients warned about this.


Okay. That did not suck. I'm being a jaded old fuck. With the exception of the parade of so-called successors, they kept it right down to the bone. I am very glad to see that. Very glad... and... for the first time in nearly twenty-five years, those hammers of wood and bongs of bells and stubbornly ridiculous rituals did not get on my nerves so badly I had to groan or scream. Good signs all around.

I should just say that "Zen" is only what we call it, and the rituals are only old ideas about imparting it. None of it the thing itself. Don't be a jackass.


Actually, I've just reminded myself of a conversation I had with someone a looong time ago. He said maybe the Japanese charlatans were pushed out of Japan... came here, where no one knew any better, to "teach" us... karma... revenge for WWII.... So there may be a real teacher or two left in Japan after all.