Dogen And Go

    Keywords: Culture & History

Dōgen Zenji (1200-1253, [ext] Wikipedia entry) knew go and referred to it in at least one place in his writings. Dōgen was the medieval Japanese religious leader and founder of the Sōtō school of Zen ([ext] website) in Japan.

The reference to go is found in his philosophical masterwork Shōbōgenzō ([ext] Wikipedia entry), or Treasure of the True Dharma Eye, in the Spring and Autumn (Shunjū) fascicle (chapter). There, Dōgen comments on an earlier commentary by a Chinese Zen master using go as an analogy for engagement and involvement. Kazuaki Tanahashi ([ext] website) has done a translation of this fascicle in his book Moon in a Dewdrop ([ext] Amazon.com), although BobMyers claims this translation (and not just this one) has numerous problems, and provides his own translation of the section in question and commentary [ext] here. His bottom line: facile interpretations that Dōgen is somehow equating go and enlightenment are just wrong.

There is also a claimed reference to go in Dōgen occurs in the Nishijima/Cross translation of Shōbōgenzō ([ext] Amazon.com), in its translation of the Kattō (Twining Vines) fascicle, but it turns out this is spurious. See BobMyers's [ext] analysis here.

isshoni: [ext] here is a comment by William Cobb on the Tanahashi translation mentioned above (taken from the Wayback machine, since the original page is offline). Alas, as too often in Western Zen commentaries, disagreements in translation/interpretation of intrinsically difficult texts are worded in a rather aggressive manner...I have no idea which one, if any, is more accurate. For what it's worth, I'll mention that Tanahashi Kazuaki is a member of the Sōtō school of Zen, which initiated an extensive academic translation of the Shōbōgenzō and other Sōtō texts, namely the Sōtō Zen Text Project ([ext] website), whose works are being published at a slow pace by American scholars. Their translation of Spring and Autumn still awaits the assignment of translator.

BobMyers: Saying that something is wrong is not "aggressive". It's just saying that it's wrong. The Stanford project to translate Dogen (which is now suspended pending completion and collation of all translations for a planned 2020 publication date of Shobo Genzo) was not "initiated" by the Soto Zen Head Office, and Tanahashi being a "member" (whatever that means) of the Soto School has nothing to do with that project, and does not give his translation any added authority.

axd: Beginner's Mind

Enlightment sought in Zen may not directly compare to aspiring "shodanhood", but while reading "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (Shunryu Suzuki)", following struck me:

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few". (for a few more interesting quotes that may apply in Go, see [ext] http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Shunryu_Suzuki)

S. Suzuki also writes that "beginner's mind was a favourite quote of Dogen"; doing some wikisearch, I find a beginner's wholehearted practice of the Way is exactly the totality of original enlightenment ([ext] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogen)


Dogen And Go last edited by BobMyers on March 12, 2018 - 15:09
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