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Un poème du Eihei Kôroku

commenté par Nishijima rôshi

"Le recueil complet d'Eihei" (Eihei kôroku) rassemble l'ensemble des prédications formelles et des poésies en chinois du maître Eihei Dôgen (1200-1253), le fondateur de l'école japonaise sôtô. Il s'agit le plus souvent de prêches formels, "des montées en salle", rédigés dans une prose rythmée, un style particulier de l'époque Song. Les stances bouddhiques sont nombreuses : des geju, généralement des quatrains de quatre fois sept pieds et des juko, une variante des geju, qui sont des commentaires versifiés de kôan. Le quatrain traduit et commenté mot à mot par Nishijima rôshi se trouve à la section 21 du dixième fascicule de ce Recueil.

Lire la traduction française.

1998 Feb. 10-14

The poem "21" from book 10 in Eihei Koroku was first written by Master Dogen directly in Chinese kanji. This is because all Japanese intellectual people at that time used to read Chinese, so he preferred to expressed his ideas directly in Chinese. Master Dogen was already familiar with Chinese before going in China. Some reading Japanese pronunciation has been done after, and so the Japanese pronunciation is different from the original Chinese version, and some typical Japanese grammatical added terms are needed to read this pronunciation.

The Japanese pronunciation from the Chinese version is:

Sekishin hempen to shite manten u nari / Jikini semmu ichikaku o e kitaru

Kotai imada akiramezu san hachi kyu / Hitotabi gisai shi owatte hitotabi gisai su.

Un portrait de DôgenVerse 1: Sekishin hempen to shite manten u nari

Seki means red, naked, no decoration. For example, the skin is red when the body has no clothes. So red suggests that nothing covers the skin. It is like a baby mind. No education on it, no training, nothing. It is our simple state, a baby state, a naked mind, like a red skin which is covered by nothing.

Shin means mind. But we have to understand that for Japanese people, mind has a more general meaning than for westerner. For Japanese for example, there is not such a clear separation between the spirit (mind) and the physical emotions (heart), between the spirit and the emotion. So this notion of mind in Japan has an aspect closer to the heart, than we have in west. For westerner, mind means something logical, spiritual, and heart means emotion, love ... These 2 notions are for westerners very separated. But for Japanese, there is not a clear distinction between these 2 notions. For example from the dictionary (A guide to remembering Japanese characters, Henshall, Tuttle Language Library, 1988) the kanji Shin means "heart" but it can be used figuratively as "feeling" or "mind". Suggest a heart whose strokes have been 'damaged' by stylisation. Shin in Japanese pronunciation is kokoro as in magokoro (sincerity). So shin is "heart-mind", because it is kind of combination between something emotional (heart) and something spiritual (mind). So if we only understand shin as "mind" in English or "esprit" in French, we forget one notion. So in that sense, it is better to understand shin as "consciousness" better than mind. But in the poem we will translate it by "mind" because "consciousness" has a too scientific connotation. So the mind in Japanese concept is the every day common mind, nothing completely spiritual (mind) nothing completely physical (heart).

So Sekishin means naked mind like a baby mind that means sincere mind, honest mind, original mind, or more precisely sincere consciousness, honest consciousness like a baby mind who doesn't think so much as an adult (who has a lot of "knowledge", society clothes...) but just act at each moment without thinking about this action itself. Sincere and honest suggest moral value, but at the same time, suggest just a baby mind, a simple mind, without intention.

Hempen is a same kanji repeated 2 times. Hen means piece, so hempen means "piece-piece"; the words don't suggest duality like "2 pieces" in opposition to ippen (unified). They just suggest the present moment, now, every instant, each instant, and in the context of the poem to act sincerely at the present moment (hempen). Master Dogen used a repetitive way as a method to stress on something. So if we repeat a word 2 times, it has more weight than if we say it only one time. According to Nishijima Sensei, Master Dogen didn't want to suggest dislocation but stress on the word "piece", that means in the context of Master Dogen's poem, "each piece of moment", "every piece of moment". What is important is not the repetition itself, but the notion of "now". The repetitive way is just to show the importance of that "Now", or each present moment.

So again, careful because "now-now" can also be interpreted as 2 "now" repeated at different times, so dislocated, but Master Dogen speaks about 2 "now" occurring at every time, at this time, at this moment, so the difference of time is not important, the dislocation is not important.

So it is very important not to interpret hempen intellectually, logically, but to get the idea, the meaning which is the description of acts at the present moment. "piece, piece","A piece of moment, a piece of moment", "now, now"," here, here", ...

So Sekishin hempen means naked mind at the present moment, sincere mind at the present moment.

To shite is the Japanese words added to the original Chinese version, which are compulsory in Japanese in order to read the sentence. To shite means with or as. Man means whole. Ten means sky.

So manten means the whole sky, which suggests the whole universe. Manten has a bigger meaning than only sky, or sky with clouds, or even stormy sky. It is the whole sky, more general. Like Heavens in English, or "les Cieux" in French but without religious connotation.

So to answer to your question of the metaphor between the spirit compared not as a blue sky but as a stormy sky, Nishijima Sensei doesn't make this kind of metaphor, because his translation of Manten is the whole sky, which suggests the whole universe, and not a stormy sky which suggest a mind with a lot of thoughts.

U means exist, or is. Nari is an old Japanese word which means "is", like desu in modern Japanese. So u nari means is existing, there is.

So Sekishin hempen to shite manten u nari means "with sincere mind at every moment, the whole Heavens exist", or "With original mind (attitude) at every moment, the Whole Universe exists", If we really act at every moment, the whole Universe is not separates from us".

Verse 2: Jikini semmu ichikaku o e kitaru

Jikini means directly. Sen means thousands. Mu means dreams. Ichi means one. One here suggests the One,total, whole. Kaku means awakening, realization.

So ichi kaku means totally awakening, whole awakening. But it is not satori, something special, it is just to be at the present moment, which is a normal awakening, an instantaneous awakening, an awakening of each moment, an awakening at every moment.

O is Japanese word for object. E means to get. Kitaru means has come, suggest present perfect.

Jikini semmu ichikaku o e kitaru means "Directly, I have got thousand of dreams and one reality", which suggests something as "Relying on practice, we can get miscellaneous kinds of dreams and one truth". That suggests that in zazen, even thought we have many thoughts or dreams, we still are sitting in the truth, in reality.

Verse 3: Kotai imada akiramezu san hachi kyu

Ko means whole. Tai means body (old fashion kanji). Imada not yet. Akiramezu means not made clear, not clarified. San means three, 3 treasures that means Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Hachi means eight, eight fold path (right view, right thoughts, right speech, ...). Kyu means nine. Nishijima Sensei suggests the interpretation that (find in the chapter "Bukkyo" of Shobogenzo), Master Dogen says: "sometimes mention is made of the "nine parts and kinds of buddhist sutras" which might be called "the nine divisions of buddhist sutras".

The nine parts:

1- Sutra 2- Gaathaa, 3- Past episodes, 4- Past lives, 5- The unprecedented, 6- [accounts of] causes and circumstances, 7- Parables, 8- Geya, 9- Upadesa.

More information is given in this chapter.

By the way there is a comment that might also come from Chinese and Japanese game called "Chohan" which is played with 2 dices. We throw them, and if the sum of the numbers equal 9, that is the strongest score. 0 is the weakest score. In this game, 9+1=0 (and not 10), and 3+8+9=0 (and not 20). In parallel of what we will explain latter (that the Buddhist abstract theory has no value by itself without practice, that means Buddhist abstract theory without practice is sometimes misleading, therefore even if 3, 8 and 9 has a lot of value themselves, the sum of all of them has no value.

So 3-8-9 suggests Buddhist theoretical teaching.

So Kotai imada akiramezu san hachi kyu means "The whole body hasn't clarified 3-8-9". This verse suggests that when we sit zazen, or when we sincerely act during the day, we don't understand the Buddhist teaching intellectually, but we just act (in the sense of Nishijima Sensei, that is practice zazen, as well as any action of daily life).

Verse 4: Hitotabi gisai shi owatte hitotabi gisai su

This verse is translated by Nishijima Sensei in Japanese quiet differently from your version. His version is: Hitotabi gisai shi owatte hito tabi gisai su. Ichi means one, but in Japanese when we count one time, in Japanese we use hitotabi.

Hito means one. Tabi is a Japanese extra word, and is a counter mark for time. So hitotabi means one time. Gisai means doubt. Doubt means questions or problems. Owatte means finish. So gisai shi owatte means finish to have doubt. Gisai su means to have doubt.

So Hitotabi gisai shi owatte hitotabi gisai su means: "After finishing one doubt, occurs another doubt". Master Dogen described transcendent Buddhas, that means Buddhas who are becoming better, even after realization, different from the idea that after realization, there are no problems. There is ordinary life in which even Buddhas are becoming better. So even if a Buddha has realized the truth, he should continue to practice zazen.

This poem says that if we are sincere at every moment, therefore the Heavens can exists. Even though we have the experience of the realization, there are a lot of doubts and after one doubt another doubt occurs. Always in progress. Always something to do...

So the English translation is:

With sincere mind at every moment, the whole Heavens exist; / Directly, I have got thousand of dreams and one reality;
The whole body hasn't clarified 3-8-9; / After finishing one doubt, occurs another doubt.

Reproduction interdite.

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