- As for the blog's name: -

I was @ Gustav Ericsson's sight, - Anzenkai, and I was looking at Nishijima Roshi’s calligraphies over there. Particularly there is one - "seki shin hen pen" - about which Gustav has earlier said in a blog post that it is Nishijima's favorite phrase from Master Dogen.

This seemed strange to me. It was not what I would expect Nishijima Roshi's favorite phrase to be. It seemed it could be some Rinzai master's favorite quote, - it seems to express continuous and constant sincerity, - but it did not seem to fit my view of the way Nishijima Roshi saw things.

So - consequently - I tried to think what would I expect his favorite quote to be. But all phrases I could think of did not seem to fit just what I might have had in mind.

So I tried to come up with what I would see it as, - and what I have come up with - is - "this universe out here".

- And this seems to be the right name for this blog here too.

- Definitely.                                                 ________________________

Seppō Gison (Xuefeng Yicun)

I am used to using Japanese names of the Chinese masters. Nishijima was generally always using the Japanese names. It might make more sense using the Chinese names if you are talking or writing in English, - but as for now at least I am continuing this way. Nishijima said this is the way Master Dogen would have pronounced them in front of a Japanese audience, - but it hardly seems to matter to me. Anyway, - I wrote “Seppo Gison” and added the Chinese name too.

I just want to bring four stories about him here.

All from the Shinji Shobogenzo.

I changed nothing of the translation, (else than two spelling mistake I came across) and left it exactly as it is. The translation is that of Gudo Nishijima, (- ?) and it says “Edited by” Michael Luetchford and Jeremy Pearson. - I don’t really like the translation this much. No offence to Mike or Jeremy, of course. - There is an earlier translation of Nishijima together with a person by the name of Larry Zacchi and with Luetchford too, - of Book 1 only.

- It seems better to me.

In cases where the translation was changed (as it was in some of the stories) it seems it wasn’t for the better. - It seems the principle guiding Leutchford and Pearson in the translation was to make it as comprehensible as possible. - At the price of the subtlety or refineness of the text as presented, - it does seem explicitly wrong to me. Particularly since there is anyway a commentary to each of the stories [there] where one can explain or present anything you’d consider might not be properly understood reading the text itself.

- Still, - this is the translation I use.

I don’t even know Daido’s translation, though I know Brad Warner didn’t like it. - However, - I don’t think it is very reasonable writing the commentary there that Daido did (as I understand) present there if one is not a Buddha. If one did not understand the last Dharma. And I don’t think he ever claimed to.

One other remark: - There used to a blog by Harry Bradely where all (or about all) of the Nishijima translation of the Shinji Shobogenzo was published, story be story. It is gone now, I don’t know if in any way having to do with a post of mine here from January 2012.

Anyway, here are the stories. This is what the post is about.

- Book 3, - no. 18 -

Three colleagues, Master Seppo Gison, Master Ganto Zenkatsu, and Master Kinzan Bunsui, visiting Buddhist masters throughout the country together, arrived at the Reishi district, where Master Kinzan had been appointed master of a temple. The two other masters travelled on and arrived at Gozan mountain, where they were stopped by snow. Master Ganto just slept all day. Master Seppo just practiced Zazen all day.

One day Master Seppo called to his friend and said: Brother monk, please get up for a bit.

Master Ganto said: what do you want to do?

Master Seppo said: Although I have been practicing Zazen for along time, I haven’t got a good state. When we were travelling with Reishu, I was constantly disturbed by him. Now we have to stop here. You brother monk, however, just sleep.

Master Ganto shouted at him and said: Just have a good sleep! You just sit on the floor all day, looking like a piece of ground in a remote village! Some day in the future when you become a temple master, you will intoxicate and mislead men and women.

Master Seppo pointed at his breast and said: In here I have not become peaceful. I cannot delude myself that it is not like that.

Master Ganto said: I just have the feeling that you will go to the top of a lonely peak in the future, build yourself a simple hut, and will spread and promote great teachings. You have these great capabilities, although you are still saying such things.

Master Seppo said: My state has not settled peacefully yet, though.

Master Ganto said: If you are really like that, tell me the facts according to the state you have experienced one by one. I will affirm those that are appropriate and scoop out what is not right for you.

Master Seppo said I: When I went to Master Enkan Sai-an’s temple I had the chance to hear the Master preaching Buddhist theory in the lecture hall. He preached about the material (form) and the immaterial (emptiness). There I was able to enter the concrete state.

Master Ganto said: That is already thirty years ago. I really want to discuss something more relevant.

Master Seppo said: Later, I read in Master Tozan’s poem of the flowering river, that if you look for something outside of yourself, that attitude can never make you happy. We should avoid making an effort to get something outside of ourselves. I hate that attitude. It is completely foreign to me.

Master Ganto said: If you understand the poem like that, you still haven’t got through that state.

Master Seppo said: Later, I visited Master Tokuzan and asked him whether or not I had got the result of what I had learned about Buddhism in the past. Master Tokuzan struck me once with his stick saying “What are you saying? At the moment of the present nothing remains. It is like water in a tub with no bottom.”

Master Ganto said loudly: Don’t you remember hearing that something which is always coming and going from the house can never be a family treasure? if you want to spread and strengthen the great teaching, they should emanate from your breast; using them, you should make yourself one with heaven and earth.

On hearing this, Master Seppo arrived at the truth, and prostrated himself at once. He stood up and cried repeatedly: Elder brother! I have realized the truth on Gozan mountain for the first time.

- Book 3, - no. 95 -

When Master Seppo Gison was taking a walk with Master Sansho Enen, they saw a group of monkeys. Master Seppo said: Each of those monkeys is carring an eternal mirror on its back.

Master Sansho said: The situation has remained unnamed for many eons. Why do you describe it with the words “eternal mirror”?

Master Seppo said: A crack has appeared!

Master Sansho said: You, reverend monk, with fifteen hundred students, cannot even recognize the meaning of the words.

Master Seppo said: I am too busy with my job as a temple master.

- Book 2, - no. 83 -

Near Mount Seppo there was a monk who lived in a hut that he had built. For many years this monk had not shaved his head. He made a wooden dipper for himself and would go to the side of the river, scoop the water into the dipper, and drink.

One day a monk visited him and asked: What was Master Bodhidharma’s intention in coming from the west?

The master of the hut said: The ravine is deep, so the handle of this dipper is long.

The monk went back to the temple and told Master Seppo of this.

Master Seppo said: Wondrous! I will go there myself and see the real situation of the old Master. I will know at once if he is genuine.

So one day Master Seppo, taking a razor, went to the hut with his servant monk, to visit the old man. They looked at each other for a while, then Master Seppo said: If you can say anything about the truth, I will not shave your head.

The master of the hut immediately washed his head with water. Then Master Seppo shaved his head for him.

- Book 3, - no. 84 -

One day Master Seppo Gison was asked by a monk: What is it like when we are in an eternal valley or a cold spring?

Master Seppo said: Even though we open our eyes widely, we cannot see the bottom.

The monk asked: What is it like when we drink it?

Master Seppo said: Water will not enter the mouth.

On hearing this story, Master Joshu Jushin said: Of course! Water will not enter the nostrils either!

Then a monk asked Master Joshu: What is it like when we are in an eternal or a cold spring?

Master Joshu said: It is painful!

The monk said: What’s it like when we drink it?

Master Joshu said: We will die.

When Master Seppo heard these words, he said: Master Joshu is an eternal Buddha.

After that time, Master Seppo didn’t engage in any discussions.


So far for this post.

As I said I don’t like that much the translation as it is, and it does seem to manifest somewhat in the stories I chose above - I am adding also Master Dogen’s referrences from the Shobogenzo (chapters Kokyō (20) and Dōtoku (39)) where he is talking about two (the 2nd and the 3rd) of the stories. These bits include also a translation, also by Nishijima, - here with Chodo (Mike) Cross, - which is different from the translation above. It seems in part at least the text itself is different in the Japanese too. - You don’t have to read it. But anyway still it is here. Depends on how interested you are.

First from Shōbōgenzō Kokyō, - relating to the second story here.

          Great Master Shinkaku of Seppō Mountain and Zen Master Enen of Sanshōin Temple are walking along when they see a group of apes. Thereupon Seppō says, “These apes are each backed with one eternal mirror.”
          We must diligently learn these words in practice. “Ape” means monkey. How are the apes that Seppō sees? We should ask questions like this, and make effort further, not noticing the passing of kalpas. “Each is backed with one eternal mirror”: though the eternal mirror is the face of Buddhist patriarchs, at the same time, the eternal mirror, even in the ascendant state, is the eternal mirror. That it backs each individual ape does not mean that there are big mirrors and small mirrors according to individual differences; it is “one eternal mirror.” As to the meaning of “backed,” for example we say that a painted image of a buddha is “backed” with what we stick behind it. When the backs of apes are backed, they are backed with the eternal mirror. “What kind of paste could have been used?” To speak tentatively, the backs of monkeys might be backed with the eternal mirror. Is the back of the eternal mirror backed with monkeys? The back of the eternal mirror is backed with the eternal mirror, and the backs of monkeys are backed with monkeys. The words that “each back has one face” are never an empty teaching: they are the truth expressed as the truth should be expressed. So apes or eternal mirrors? Ultimately, what can we say? Are we ourselves originally apes? Or are we other than apes? Who can we ask? Whether we are apes is beyond our knowledge and beyond the knowledge of others. Whether we are ourselves is beyond [intellectual] groping.
          Sanshō says, “It has been nameless for successive kalpas. Why would you express it as the eternal mirror?” This is a mirror, a concrete instance, with which Sanshō has certified his realization of the eternal mirror. “For successive kalpas” means before a mind or a moment of consciousness has ever appeared; it means the inside of a kalpa not having shown its head. “Nameless” describes “the successive kalpas’”sun-faces, moonfaces, and eternal mirror-faces; and describes the face of the clear mirror. When “the nameless” is really “the nameless,” the “successive kalpas” are never “successive kalpas.” Given that “the successive kalpas” are not “successive kalpas,” Sanshō’s expression cannot be an expression of the truth. Instead, “before a moment of consciousness has ever appeared” means today. We should train and polish without letting today pass in vain. Frankly, though the fame of this “nameless for successive kalpas” is heard on high, it expresses the eternal mirror as what? A dragon’s head with a snake’s tail!
          Seppō might now say to Sanshō, “The eternal mirror! The eternal mirror!” Seppō does not say that; what he says further is, “A flaw has appeared,” or in other words, “a scratch has emerged.” We are prone to think “how could a flaw appear on the eternal mirror?” At the same time, [in saying that] the eternal mirror has borne a flaw [Seppō] may be calling the expression “It has been nameless for successive kalpas” a flaw. The eternal mirror described by “a flaw has appeared” is the total eternal mirror. Sanshō has not got out of the cave of a flaw appearing on the eternal mirror, and so the understanding which he has expressed is utterly a flaw on the eternal mirror. This being so, we learn in practice that flaws appear even on the eternal mirror and that even [mirrors] on which flaws have appeared are the eternal mirror; this is learning the eternal mirror in practice.
          Sanshō says, “What is so deadly urgent that you are not conscious of the story?” The import of these words is “why [are you in] such a deadly hurry?” We should consider in detail and learn in practice whether this “deadly emergency” is [a matter of] today or tomorrow, the self or the external world, the whole universe in ten directions or [a concrete place] inside the great kingdom of Tang? As to the meaning of “story” in the words “You are not conscious of the story,” there are stories that have continued to be told, there are stories that have never been told, and there are stories that have already been told completely. Now, the truths which are in “the story” are being realized. Has the story itself, for example, realized the truth together with the earth and all sentient beings? It is never restored brocade. Therefore it is “not conscious”; it is the “nonconsciousness” of “the man facing the royal personage”; it is being face-to-face without consciousness of each other. It is not that there are no stories; it is just that the concrete situation is “beyond consciousness.” “Nonconsciousness” is red mind in every situation and, further, not-seeing with total clarity.
          Seppō says, “It is the old monk’s mistake.” Sometimes people say these words meaning “I expressed myself badly,” but [the words] need not be understood like that. “The old monk” means the old man who is master in his house; that is to say, [someone] who solely learns in practice the old monk himself, without learning anything else. Though he experiences a thousand changes and ten thousand transformations, heads of gods and faces of demons, what he learns in practice is just the old monk’s one move. Though he appears as a buddha and appears as a patriarch, at every moment and for ten thousand years, what he learns in practice is just the old monk’s one move. “Mistakes” are his “abundant jobs as temple master.” Upon reflection, Seppō is an outstanding member of [the order of] Tokusan, and Sanshō is an excellent disciple of Rinzai. Neither of the two venerable patriarchs is of humble ancestry: [Seppō] is a distant descendant of Seigen and [Sanshō] is a distant descendant of Nangaku. That they have been dwelling in and retaining the eternal mirror is [evidenced] as described above. They may be a criterion for students of later ages.

Second from Shōbōgenzō Dōtoku, - relating to the third story here

          In the order of Great Master Shinkaku of Seppō there was a monk who went to the edge of the mountain and, tying together thatch, built a hut. Years went by, but he did not shave his head. Who can know what vitality there was inside the hut?—though circumstances in the mountains were desolate indeed. He made himself a wooden dipper and he would go to the edge of a ravine to scoop water and drink. Truly, he must have been the sort who drinks the ravines. As the days and months came and went like this, rumors of his customs secretly leaked out. Consequently, on one occasion a monk came to ask the master of the hut, “What is the ancestral master’s in tention in coming from the west?” The hut master said, “The ravine is deep so the dipper’s handle is long.” The monk was staggered. Without doing prostrations or requesting the benefit [of further teaching], he climbed back up the mountain and told Seppō what had happened. When Seppō heard the report he said, “Wondrous! Even so, this old monk will have to go and see for himself. By testing [the hut master] I will grasp [his situation] at once.” Seppō’s words mean that the excellence [of the hut master’s expres sion] is so excellent as to be wondrous, but the Old Monk himself had better go and investigate.
          So it is that one day Seppō suddenly sets off, telling an attendant monk to bring a razor. They go directly to the hut. As soon as he sees the hut master, [Seppō] requests, “Express the truth and I will not shave your head.” We must understand this request. “Express the truth and I will not shave your head” seems to say that not to have the head shaved would be to have expressed the truth—What do you think? If this expression of the truth is an expression of the truth, [the hut master] might finally go unshaved. Those who have the power to hear this expression of the truth should listen, and should proclaim it to others who have the power to hear. Then the hut master washes his head and comes before Seppō. Has he come as the expression of the truth, or has he come as the nonexpression of the truth? Seppō shaves the head of the hut master at once.
          This episode is truly like an appearance of the uḍumbara. It is not only difficult to meet, it may be difficult even to hear. It is beyond the scope of [bodhisattvas in] the seven sacred stages or ten sacred stages and is not glimpsed by [bodhisattvas in] the three clever stages or seven clever stages. Sutra teachers and commentary teachers, and adherents of mystical powers and apparitions, cannot fathom it at all. “To meet the Buddha’s appearance in the world” means to hear a story like this. Now, what might be the meaning of Seppō’s “Express the truth and I will not shave your head.” When people who have never expressed the truth hear this, those with ability may be startled and doubting and those without ability will be dumbfounded. [Seppō] does not ask about “buddha,” he does not discuss “the Way,” he does not ask about “samādhi,” and he does not discuss “dhāraṇī.” Inquiry like his, while seeming to be a request, also seems to be an assertion. We should research this in detail. The hut master, though, because of his genuineness, is aided and abetted by the expression of the truth itself and is not dumb founded. Showing the traditional style, he washes his head and comes for ward. This is a Dharma standard at which not even the Buddha’s own wisdom can arrive. It may be described as “manifestation of the body,” as “preaching of the Dharma,” as “saving of the living,” and as “washing the head and coming forward.” Then, if Seppō were not the real person he is, he might throw down the razor and roar with laughter. But because Seppō has real power and is a real person, he just shaves the hut master’s head at once. Truly, if Seppō and the hut master were not “buddhas alone, together with buddhas,” it could not be like this. If they were not one buddha and two buddhas, it could not be like this. If they were not a dragon and a dragon, it could not be like this. The black dragon’s pearl is tirelessly guarded by the black dragon, but it rolls naturally into the hand of a person who knows how to take it. Let us remember: Seppō testing the hut master, the hut master seeing Seppō, expression of the truth, nonexpression of the truth, [the hut master] having his head shaved, and [Seppō] shaving his head. So, in conclusion, there are ways for good friends in the expression of the truth to pay unexpected visits. And between friends who are unable to say anything, although they do not expect [recognition], the means are already present for their selves to be known. When there is learning in practice of knowing the self, there is the reality of expressing the truth.

I droped the footnotes. The links for the full books are on the right and anyone intersted can check there.