Shobogenzo

Nishijima Roshi spent many years translating the Shobogenzo into modern Japanese. He then continued to translate it into English. He described the process on his blog in 2007.

“I have begun to read Shobogenzo, which was written by Master Dogen in the 13th century, for the first time in 1938. But, even though it was written in Japanese, it was so difficult for me to understand it for the first time. However, reading it again and again, I have begun to understand it gradually, and so when I have understood the total meaning of it, I wrote my first book, which is called “Bukkyo – Dai San no Sekai-kan”, or “Buddhism – the third view of the world.” And I have introduced the outline of Shobogenzo by Master Dogen as my first book of Buddhism.
     Then I have begun to translate Shobogenzo, which was written in Japanese of the medieval age, into the modern Japanese. I guess that many people feel strange that it was necessary for me to translate the Japanese in the medieval age into the modern Japanese because I am just a native speaker of Japanese, but actually speaking the Japanese in the medieval age was so different from the modern Japanese, and so if I want to make Shobogenzo understandable for modern Japanese people, it was necessary for us to translate Shobogenzo, which was written in Japanese of the medieval age into the modern Japanese inevitably. So I have translated the total Shobogenzo into the modern Japanese first, and I have published “Gendaigoyaku Shobogenzo”, or “Shobogenzo in Modern Japanese” first. The book includes the 13 volumes including the original text of Shobogenzo, comments for difficult words, and Shobogenzo in the modern Japanese, and an index. It was necessary for me to accomplish and publish it for 16 years. At that time I was the head of a section in Japan Security Finance Company, and so I was rather busy. Therefore it was necessary for me to stop smoking, drinking, playing golf and mahjong, travelling and so forth, to write the draft of the book everyday. After finishing the dinner at the 7 o’clock everyday, I worked for writing the draft of translated Shobogenzo into modern Japanese for 3 hours everyday, and on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays, I worked for writing the draft almost everyday. And after becoming the consultant of Ida Industry Corporation since 1975, even during the daytime I could work for Shobogenzo, when there was no meeting in Ida company.
     It was necessary for me to spend 16 years to accomplish “The modern Japanized Shobogenzo,” and then I have begun to translate Shobogenzo into English. At that time I have become the counselor of Ida Company already, and so usually I could work for translating Shobogenzo even for a daytime in the company for about 5 hours when there was no meeting, and at night I could work for the English translation also for 3 hours at home. And after 6 years efforts I have accomplished my English translation by myself first. Therefore it was necessary for me to accomplish my English translation for 16 years + 6 years = 22 years. ”

When the small group of foreign students began to attend his Saturday seminar in Tokyo, he asked for our help in editing these translations. Following are 36 of the chapters that I completed with him over the six years from 1978 to 1983. The other chapters completed by Jeff Bailey and Larry Zacchi are no longer available. These translations are more interpretive than the later translations that he made with Mike Cross, and therefore not as close to the original Japanese. Nishijima Roshi used these chapters as the basis for his Saturday lectures in Tokyo until the later translation started to be completed.

Chapter 16 – Shisho – The Certificate of Transmission

Chapter 17 – Hokke-Ten-Hokke – The Wonderful Universe is Moving Itself

Chapter 18 –Shin Fukatoku – Mind is Ungraspable (The Former)

Chapter 19 – Shin Fukatoku – Mind Cannot be Grasped (The Latter)

Chapter 20 – Kokyo – The Eternal Mirror

Chapter 21 – Kankin – On Reading Sutras

Chapter 27 –  Zazenshin  – A Maxim of Zazen

Chapter 28 – Butsu kojo no Ji – The Matter of Ascending Buddha

Chapter 29 – Inmo – The Ineffable

Chapter 51 – Mitsugo – Secret and Intimate Whispers

Chapter 52 – Bukkyo – Buddhist Scriptures

Chapter 53 – Mujo Seppo – The Non-Emotional Preach the Dharma

Chapter 54 – Hossho – The Universal Essence

Chapter 55 – Darani – Omnipotence

Chapter 56 – Senmen – Washing the Face

Chapter 57 – Menju – The Face-to-Face Transmission

Chapter 58 – Zazengi – The Standard Form of Zazen

Chapter 59 – Baike – Plum Blossoms

Chapter 82 – Shobogenzo Ji-Kuin-Mon – Written Rules for the Temple Kitchen

Chapter 83 – Shukke – Transcending Family Life

Chapter 84 – Sanji no Go – Three Kinds of Time Lapse between Conduct and Its Effect

Chapter 85 – Shime – The Four Kinds of Horses

Chapter 86 – Shukke Kudoku – The Virtue of Transcending Family Life

Chapter 88 – Ki-e Sanbo – Devotion to the Three Supreme Values

Chapter 89 – Shinjin Inga – Profound Belief in the Rule of Cause and Effect

Chapter 90 – Shizen Biku – The Buddhist Monk Who Mistook the Fourth Phase in Zazen for the Fourth Buddhist Accomplishment

Chapter 91 – Yui Butsu Yo Butsu – Buddhas and Only Buddhas

Chapter 92 – Shoji – Life and Death

Chapter 93 – Doshin – The Will to the Truth

Chapter 94 – Jukai – Receiving the Precepts

Chapter 95 – Hachi Dainingaku – The Eight Great Human Truths

Appendix 1 – Butsu Kojo no Ji – The Matter of Ascending Buddha

Appendix 2 – Ippiaku-Hachi Homyo Mon – The One Hundred and Eight Gates Which Clarify Buddhism