Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Word about my Shobogenzo Posts

I started reading Dogen after having been introduced to his work by Each Moment is the Universe by Dainin Katagiri. I was particularly intrigued by the notion "the way of being time" and decided to read Dogen directly rather than relying on someone else's interpretation.

Recent times have seen little progress in my Shobogenzo posts because I have questioned whether I should continue. First and foremost, in contrast to many individuals like Katagiri and Okumura who have spent substantial portions of their lives studying Dogen, I'm neither an expert in Dogen or historical perspectives of Zen. But neither am I, by writing the Shobogenzo posts, trying to pass myself off as an expert or a teacher.

In reading and writing about the Shobogenzo I'm not concerning myself overly much about being right even though I often spend weeks or months off-and-on contemplating what inspires me most about each chapter. I approach the chapters in the way we're encouraged to listen to Teishos absorbing what I can. Even though I enjoy hearing Dogen's take on what the Buddha taught it's not my intention at this time to become a Dogen scholar, especially having been limited by academia most of my life. I'm not choosing to read and write about the Shobogenzo in lieu of other possibilities in life. If anything I'm choosing to read and write about the Shobogenzo to inspire my sense of creativity in living.

Having brought up being right, I have to question whether I'm risking doing wrong by writing these posts. Am I running the risk of misleading people? Hopefully not, given my statement in the sidebar of the blog. As I've said before, my interpretations aren’t meant to be definitive, rather they’re intended to be appreciative of Dogen's poetic sensibility and as encouragement and motivation for folks to read the Shobogenzo for themselves. To the extent that I've compared different translations, the Nishijima and Cross translation is the best at maintaining the sense of poetics and prosody that I appreciate in Dogen's writing. Speaking for myself, poetics and prosody convey meaning beyond words.

However, another way I might be doing wrong is by offending those who've invested a considerable portion of their lives studying Dogen to definitively determine his take on central concepts in historical context. I hope that's not the case, but I didn't start writing these posts to garner favor or win approval. When I look back I get the impression that I've allowed myself to be needlessly distracted by these kinds of concerns. Kind of like getting overly concerned about right posture. 

At this time I'm not sure how many more posts on the Shobogenzo I'll write since my life will be changing pretty dramatically in the near future. But writing these posts motivates me, not only to read, but also to clarify my own thinking to a greater extent than I would if I weren't intending to write.

P.S. When I refer to poetics and prosody, I'm not referring to my own recent poem which was written out of a sense of disgust at some of what I was seeing in the blogosphere and on Twitter.

P.S.S. The sculpture is from a courtyard at work. The signature, though I can't make it out, follows below: