|Submitted By: michel on 08/15/2007
Returning from China after a few years of absence, Dogen was struck by the absence in what was taught as Buddhism in Japan of the basic teaching of the Buddha, Dhyana. He set out to transmit what had been given to him upon Mount Tendo, but, sensing probably that his life would be short, decided to put down on paper everything he could, for the benefit of future generations, as he says himself in Bendowa.
Of the three available complete English translations of Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, the Nishijima-Cross translation is certainly the best existing. Not only do experts in Bungo (the classical Medieval Japanese language) hold it to be the nearest to the original text, but it also benefits from a reading grid which the other translations obviously lack.
It is not easy to understand the various contradictions extant in the words of Dogen. These stem from Dogen's use of a fourfold structure, akin to that of Master Nagarjuna. He'll usually consider problems from a theoretical point of view, then from a strictly material of sensorial point of view, add a synthesis of both from the point of view of action, and then top it with a poetical paragraph pointing to the utterly elusive nature of reality. If one keeps these points in mind, a lot of the text, though still difficult, becomes much easier to understand. This version, built upon Nishijima's lifes work of translating in modern Japanese, and interpreting Dogen's text, is a must for anyone serious in understanding Dogen.